Riyadh: A Saudi initiative facilitating return home for expatriates, stranded by travel restrictions due to the novel coronavirus, is restricted to legal residents, authorities have said. Also Read - Saudi Man Jumps on Back of Rare Whale Shark & Rides Along While Holding Fin | Watch Viral Video

In April, Saudi Arabia launched ‘Awdah’ (return), an online initiative offering air travel for foreigners wishing to return home after the Kingdom had halted a month earlier international flights as part of measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, Gulf News reported on Wednesday. Also Read - Hajj 2020: Muslims Begin Socially-Distanced Hajj Pilgrimage in Mecca, Beautiful Pictures Emerge Online | Watch

The Saudi General Directorate of Passports, Jawazat, has elaborated that the Awdah initiative is now available for legal residents only, Saudi online newspaper Ajel has reported. Also Read - Saudi Arabia Rules Out Financial Curbs on Expats

Accepting expatriates’ applications for repatriation hinges on their respective home countries’ approval to take them in, after which the competent agencies in the Kingdom embark on travel booking and contacting the foreign resident wishing to return home, it added. Migrant workers account for about 10.5 million of Saudi Arabia’s 34.8 million population.

The Saudi Interior Ministry earlier said that all nationalities are allowed to register in the Awdah initiative launched for foreign residents holding visas of exit and return, final exit, different types of visit as well as the tourist visas by applying via the electronic platform “Absher” to fly home.

In recent weeks, Saudi Arabia has relaxed several virus-related curbs, including restart of domestic air travel. However, a halt to international flights from and to the Kingdom is still in place.