Riyadh, Apr 4: A delegation of Karnataka comprising Udupi Chikmagalur MP K Jayaprakash Hegde, Mangalore MLA U T Khader and Coastaldigest.com chairman Mohammad Asif on Thursday held a meeting with the Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Hamil Ali Rao in the embassy premises here to discuss the issue of Indian expatriates, who are facing hardship due to the strict implementation of ‘Nitaqat’ employment policy in Saudi Arabia.
This is the first delegation from Karnataka visiting Riyadh following the recent crackdown on expatriate workers in the oil rich nation.
A high-level Indian delegation led by Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi and Union Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed, that met Saudi Authorities earlier this week did not have a single representative from Karnataka.
Highlighting the difficulties the expatriates might undergo as some of them had to return jobless if the Saudi authorities continued enforcing the ‘Nitaqat’ strictly, the delegation urged the Ambassador to seek at least a three month long general amnesty from Saudi Arabia for expatriate workers, who would be affected by the new labour policy.
The delegation also urged Mr Rao to take appropriate steps to convince the Saudi authorities to temporarily slow down the crackdown on illegal workers and issue them two to three month advance notice to obtain valid documents or leave the country.
Responding to the issues raised by the delegation, the Ambassador said that the Saudization programme or Nitaqat is not a new programme but it is being implemented strictly in the recent days which resulted in the arrest of many illegal expatriate workers.
Clarifying that Saudi Arabia is not targeting any particular expatriate community, he said that this is part of an on-going Saudi policy of generating employment for Saudi nationals and for streamlining the job market in the country. There are more than two million Indians currently working in Saudi Arabia in peace and harmony, he said.
He said that the embassy is fully committed to the well-being of Indian nationals and will continue to address issues of their concern within the framework of applicable Saudi laws, keeping in view the excellent bilateral relations with this country and the welfare of more than two million Indians residents in Saudi Arabia
Mr Rao said that Indian workers without valid passports, who wish to travel back to India, may approach Indian Embassy and submit applications for emergency travel certificates. The embassy has already collected hundreds of applications for travel certificates during the last few days to facilitate advance documentation procedures for workers in distress, he said.
A growing number of Indian expatriate workers have been approaching the embassy daily for out passes, he said adding that the out passes will be issued after completion of formalities including exit formalities with the Saudi authorities. The Indian Embassy is in touch with the Saudi authorities and will notify the community if it receives any information in this regard, he said.