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Saudi Arabia sets up crisis management group for laid-off Indians

Saudi Arabia has set up a crisis management group to address difficulties being faced by thousands of laid-off Indian workers while a separate panel has

india Updated: Aug 05, 2016 23:18 IST
An Indian worker buy groceries at a shop in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah on August 4, 2016. The kingdom has set up a crisis management group to resolve the difficulties faced by thousands of laid-off Indian workers.
An Indian worker buy groceries at a shop in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah on August 4, 2016. The kingdom has set up a crisis management group to resolve the difficulties faced by thousands of laid-off Indian workers. (AFP)

Saudi Arabia has set up a crisis management group to address difficulties being faced by thousands of laid-off Indian workers while a separate panel has been appointed to look into their claims relating to unpaid wages.

The “humanitarian issue” is being handled with “utmost care” and consideration by the Saudi government which conveyed to India that it has speeded up the exit of workers who wish to return home, external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.

He said a little more time will be required to have full clarity on how many Indians want to come home and how many would like to remain in Saudi Arabia to pursue employment with other companies etc.

Swarup categorised the problems being faced by Indian workers into four segments such as wage claims, relocation, repatriation and conditions of the Indians living in various labour camps.

Minister of state for external affairs VK Singh had travelled to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and held extensive talks with Saudi labour minister Mufrej Al Haqbani who promised urgent action to resolve the problems of around 7,000 Indians.

“Earlier, in accordance to Saudi Arabian law, individual complaints used to go to labour courts. Now, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s ministry of labour has set up a committee to look into the claims of the workers.

“A Crisis Management Group has also been set up by the ministry of labour to settle all issues related to Indian workers,” Swarup said adding the ministry will now appoint a lawyer and we will know the exact procedure regarding this in the next 2-3 days.

On the issue of repatriation of the Indians, he said Saudi government has conveyed to India that they will make necessary arrangements for those who want to return to India.

The workers who want to leave Saudi Arabia can authorise the Indian consulate in Jeddah to follow up on their cases in labour courts and proceed on exit.

The Saudi government also agreed to allow transfer of Indian employees, who have lost their jobs, to any other company within Saudi Arabia.

As per Saudi Arabia’s kafala system, which is applicable to foreign workers, employees are not allowed to move to a new job without approval of their bosses.

The rules also restricts foreign workers to leave the country without NoC by the employers.

“The Saudi authorities have conveyed that they are willing to renew resident permits and labour cards to the Indian workers without any fines or fees.

“Workers who are willing to be transferred to other employers would be transferred without payment of fee or charge and without needing the consent of the current employer. Workers who wish to transfer their services can request the Ministry of Labour for grant of a 3 month temporary resident permit cum labour card,” said Swarup.

He said many companies, including some Indian construction firms are interested in taking the services of the retrenched workers. “Such a development will be a win-win for all.”

The MEA spokesperson further said, “We are giving attention to the issue off Indian workers in Saudi Arabia the highest consideration possible.”

On food crisis hitting workers staying in labour camps, Swarup said the Saudi authorities have taken responsibility of providing food to them.

He said Singh had pointed to Saudi authorities that care should be taken regarding the conditions in which the workers are living in, with special focus on their health and cleanliness.