Jeddah: As India said it will try to bring back over 10,000 Indians rendered jobless in the Gulf, the Indian diplomatic mission in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia is working on a mechanism to retrieve the pending arrears of the retrenched Indian workers from their Saudi employers.
Most Indian workers are unwilling to leave without getting back their money from the Saudi companies that have shut down.
Addressing a media conference here on Monday, Indian Consul General Noor Rahman Sheikh said the overwhelming majority of workers intend on continuing their stay in the Gulf kingdom by switching to other employers, while others want to return home only after retrieving their pending wages and other benefits from their employers.
Only a handful were willing to return home without retrieving their pending dues, he said, when asked.
In what has come as a shocking humanitarian crisis, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Saturday that over 10,000 Indian workers in Saudi Arabia were facing a “food crisis” after their factories were shut down and salaries were not paid.
Sheikh also said that the validity of passports of some of the Indian workers has expired and the Indian consulate was renewing those documents.
The validity of the exit visa and Iqama (residency visa) of some of these workers have also lapsed and the Indian mission was working to sort out these issues with local authorities, Sheikh said.
He revealed that a Saudi employer has come forward to absorb 1,000 workers and some other Saudi employers were also contacting the Indian mission.
The Consul General said Indian Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh would be arriving on Wednesday in Jeddah where he will meet Saudi officials and is also planning to visit some of the labour camps here.
The Indian mission in Jeddah has been pursuing the grievances of the workers for the last couple of months and brought these to the attention of local Saudi authorities and also to the management of one of the top companies, he said.
Sheikh said that not just in two leading construction companies but Indian nationals working in their affiliated companies and sub-contractors have also been affected by the crisis.
“Though salaries were not being paid for the last few months to its employees by a leading construction company, it was operating its food mess for workers till last week. The problem surfaced after it stopped the food supplies,” he said.
The Consul General said the Indian mission in Jeddah has ensured provision of food for 2,530 Indian workers of one of the construction companies.
“We are working round-the-clock to collect information about distressed workers,” he added.
Sheikh praised the Indian community living in Jeddah area for their support to the distressed Indian workers.
(Irfan Mohammed is a Jeddah-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)