India to evacuate laid-off workers from Saudi Arabia
Published 01/08/2016 | 11:26
India's government plans to evacuate thousands of Indian workers who have lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia and cannot afford to pay for a flight home.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said the government is arranging exit documents for those workers who want to return to India.
Ms Swaraj told politicians that India's junior foreign minister, VK Singh, will travel to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to meet Saudi officials to arrange for the workers' return.
Some of the workers have not been paid for months, she said.
They were mostly employed by Saudi construction companies and were laid off amid a slowdown in the industry due to low global oil prices.
Around 10,000 Indian workers in Saudi Arabia have lost their jobs.
The plight of the laid-off workers was raised by politicians in India's parliament on Monday.
Ms Swaraj said India's embassy has set up five camps to feed the workers and all 10,000 had received food supplies by early Monday.
More than 15,000kg of food has been delivered by the Indian consulate in Jeddah, she said.
Ms Swaraj said Mr Singh is expected to take up the question of exit permits for the workers when he reaches Saudi Arabia and will oversee the airlift of the workers.
"Saudi law does not permit an emergency exit visa without a no-objection certificate from the employer," she said.
Many of the employers have shut their factories and some have left the country, leaving the workers stranded, she said.
On Sunday, Ms Swaraj tweeted that workers in Kuwait have also lost their jobs and are suffering food shortages, but that the situation there is more manageable.
Hundreds of thousands of Indian workers travel to the Middle East each year for better-paying jobs as labourers, electricians and drivers. They endure difficult living and working conditions to send money back to their impoverished families in India.