New Saudi labour law to impact only illegal Indian blue-collar workers

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saud al faisal

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia on Saturday assured India that its decision to deport foreign workers, following implementation of its nitaqat law, will only impact illegal blue-collar workers saying that the kingdom’s actions will only encourage legally employed people to work in the country. Following his meeting with his Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid, Prince Saud Al Faisal said what Saudi Arabia was doing is in the interest of Indian workers.

“It is in their interest because without valid papers, these workers will always remain at the mercy of those who brought them here,” said Faisal, the longest serving foreign minister in the world. While switching jobs is not allowed in the country in the normal course, Saudi authorities have allowed these workers without any valid work documents to find employment and regularize themselves before the July 3rd deadline. Faisal, however, made it clear that the deadline will hold.

Those without valid documents are likely to be punished with arrest and a heavy penalty after the deadline expires. Fearing a crackdown by Saudi authorities, about 75,000 Indian workers have already sought emergency exit certificates from Indian authorities. These workers are not restricted to any region or state and, as Khurshid said on Friday, the Centre has warned all states to prepare for their rehabilitation.

After his meeting with Al Faisal, Khurshid thanked him for the “generosity” that Saudi authorities have shown in matters related to compliance with labour laws of the country saying only some “unskilled” people were likely to be impacted. “I think a majority of people will be able to able to resolve their future issues by shifting to an appropriate new employer because they now have a very generous offer to be engaged by new employers,” he said, adding that provisions would be made to bring back those who fail to get accommodated.

Considering that Saudi authorities are taking their own time to process applications of those seeking to leave the country, Khurshid also expressed hope that the “numbers and the paperwork” that needs to be done will be kept in mind.

While India has already processed over 56,000 applications out of the 75,000, Saudi authorities have not been able to process more than 500 per day making it difficult for New Delhi to meet the July 3rd deadline. It’s only after Saudi authorities process the applications of these workers that they can be given exit visas.

India’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia Hamid Ali Rao said the Embassy has offered volunteers to expedite this work. According to Indian officials, despite the brouhaha over nitaqat, a considerable number of Indian is still coming to Saudi Arabia for work.

Even as it prepares for their exit, India is also hoping that many of them will be absorbed by local firms who are said to have made a beeline for the Indian Embassy in Riyadh and the Consulate at Jeddah for hiring workers. According to Rao, around 120 companies have approached Indian authorities.

“Indians are the most preferred community in Saudi Arabia due to their hard work and discipline. I pointed out the contributions of Indian diaspora in the economic growth of India and emphasized the importance we attach to the welfare of the Indians abroad. We also emphasized the need to further deepen,” said Khurshid.

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