Solving humanitarian issues of Indian workers in Saudi is top priority: MEA

New Delhi, Aug. 5 : Detailing out the efforts being made to help thousands of Indian workers stranded in Saudi Arabia, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Vikas Swarup said on Friday the authorities in the gulf nation have promised prompt actions in addressing all the issues being faced by the workers.

Swarup said the priority is to first tackle the humanitarian issues that include providing food to the stranded Indian workers and ensuring cleanliness, health conditions, safety and security conditions in the labour camps they are living in.

He said that instructions have already been issued by the Saudi authorities to maintain cleanliness, provide electricity, water supply and medical facilities at these camps and the food is also being provided by a Saudi caterer.

Swarup added that the second set of issues that needs to be solved pertains to claims by the Indian workers.

The ministry will also appoint a lawyer and will inform about the exact procedure being followed to address these issues within the next two-three days.

Swarup further said that the workers who have not been paid for several months and who want to return to India, their cases regarding unpaid wages will be filed and pursued by the Saudi authorities.

The Saudi authorities have also conveyed that they are willing to renew resident permits and labour cards to the Indian workers who are willing to stay back and look up for other employments without any fee or charges or without needing the consent of the previous employer.

"Workers who wish to transfer their services can request the ministry of labour for grant of a three month temporary resident permit cum labour card," said Swarup.

He added that apparently, many companies including some Indian construction companies are interested in taking the services of the retrenched workers and if such a development does happen it would be a win-win situation for all.

Regarding repatriation of the workers who wish to return home, Swarup said that the Saudi authorities themselves will make all the necessary arrangements for the same.

He said that the workers returning to India can authorise the Indian consulate in Jeddah to follow upon their cases.

The Indian consulate has already given an initial list to Saudi authorities of workers willing to come back to India as well as those seeking transfer.

He said that it will take some time to disclose the exact number of workers willing to return and those willing to stay.

He said that due to friendly relations between Saudi Arabia and India, as well as the efforts made at the highest level, things are in control and the humanitarian issues being handled with utmost care and consideration.

Thousands of Indians are believed to be under severe financial crisis in Saudi Arabia after their employers laid them off without paying wages for months.

Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh yesterday held extensive talks with Saudi Labour Minister Mufrej Al Haqbani in Riyadh to resolve the plight of stranded Indian workers.

Singh said things were not as bad as it was projected, adding that they were in touch with officials of Government of Saudi Arabia.

The drop in oil prices to around USD 50 a barrel from more than USD 100 a barrel in June 2014 has caused such a situation by undermining booming Gulf economies and leaving countries like Saudi Arabia with large budget deficits and delaying payments to government contractors.

Source: ANI