Indian govt. makes arrangements for emigrants to return from Saudi Arabia

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RaviNEW DELHI, June 30;As the deadline for expatriates without valid work permits or employment in Saudi Arabia is set to end on July 3 under the “Nitaqat” (naturalisation) labour law, the Indian government has made elaborate arrangements for their smooth exit as they have to leave the Kingdom before the expiry of the deadline.

Vayalar Ravi, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister, told The Hindu over phone from Kochi on Sunday that the process was being carried out by the Indian Embassy in Riyadh and its consulate in Jeddah and so far he had not received any complaint. “There is no other way except to obey the Saudi Arabian law,” he said adding that he had no information about the possibility of the King extending the deadline.

As per the law, every firm in the Kingdom, both private and government, has to reserve 10 per cent of jobs for the Saudi nationals. This would apply to everyone, including small shops and other commercial establishments. Those expatriates, who are found without work permit or valid documents, could be arrested and heavily penalised by the law enforcers.

Of the around 20 lakh Indian working in Saudi Arabia, majority of them belonged to Kerala and informed sources said the “Nitaqat” would mainly affect the semi-skilled workers. The amnesty was supposed to end in March last week this year but the King gave three months extension up to July 3.

The Indian Embassy in the Kingdom is giving Emergency Certificates to such expatriates (around 75,000) who have registered themselves with the embassy authorities, and has asked them to get their final exit visa from the Saudi government to leave the country.

Though expatriates from many Asian countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Yemen are working in Saudi Arabia, a majority of them belong to India.

The idea of reservation came after the Arab Spring and Riyadh wanted to take measures to ensure employment for its youth. Indians who changed jobs without getting an endorsement on their visas might be in trouble.

The Kerala government, which expected large scale return of jobless Keralites from Saudi, has taken proactive measures by trying to rehabilitate them, including providing interest-free loans.

Informed sources in New Delhi said the problem in implementing “Nitaqat” for the Saudi employers was not only that they had to reserve 10 per cent jobs but also giving a minimum of 3,000 Saudi Riyals (one Riyal is equal to about Rs. 15) per month as salary to them. Whereas expatriates workforce, including Indians, would work for even 900 or 1000 Saudi Riyals per month, they said.

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