Over 18,000 Indians want to leave Saudi Arabia, seek emergency certificate

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NITAQATHYDERABAD/NEW DELHI: India could witness large-scale reverse migration in the coming months as the three-month grace period given by the Saudi Arabian government for implementation of the Nitaqat law comes to an end soon.

Over 18,000 Indians have already approached the Indian Embassy in Riyadh seeking an Emergency Certificate (EC) to leave Saudi Arabia amid concerns about possible job losses. The Indian workers have applied for issuance of EC to leave the country as they had given their passports to the sponsors, overseas Indian affairs minister Vayalar Ravi told Parliament on Wednesday.

Over two million Indians, including many from Hyderabad’s Old City localities, are currently working in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government was implementing the Nitaqat law to cut unemployment in the country mandating that one Saudi national be employed for every 10 expatriate workers.

There has been widespread perception that the new policy will lead to denial of job opportunities for a large number of Indians working there.

Ravi said as per the Indian Mission in Riyadh, the increase in the number of applications seeking the EC was due to Saudi authorities’ campaign against foreign workers staying in the country without fulfilling laid down conditions and not due to Nitaqat. “This drive affects not only illegal workers from India, but also from all countries where immigrant workers have come to Saudi Arabia,” he said.

A delegation led by Ravi had visited the Gulf nation two weeks ago during which it expressed India’s concern about the Nitaqat law. During the talks, both the sides had agreed to set up a joint working group to address “all immediate problems” facing the Indian community including issues related to overstaying Indian workers and the new labour law.

Ravi said government has waived the fee of seven Saudi riyals for contribution to the Indian Community Welfare Fund by those who applied for the EC and even asked the Embassy to bear processing cost of 40 Saudi riyals (Rs 600) per application.

He said government has asked the Mission to provide temporary accommodation and food to the needy Indians in Saudi Arabia.

More than 200,000 foreigners have been deported from Saudi Arabia over the past few months as part of labour market reforms aimed at putting more Saudi nationals into private sector jobs, where they now make up only a tenth of the workforce.

The joint group also discussed re-employment of those overstaying Indian workers in Saudi Arabia by availing the facilities offered by the ministry of labour, including services of the newly set up mega-recruiting companies.

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