According to sources from the Ministry of External Affairs, a total of approximately 10,000 Indian workers have been affected by the economic slow down in the Gulf because they are unable to afford meals after being laid off from their jobs. The impact, however, varies from company to company.
A large number of Indian workers in Saudi Arabia who have lost their jobs and cannot even buy food due to severe financial hardship will be brought back home, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said, while appealing to an estimated 3 millions Indians living in Saudi Arabia for help.
Not one worker of ours will go hungry. This is my assurance to the country through Parliament...We will bring all of them back to India. VK Singh will be proceeding imminently to Saudi Arabia to visit the worker camps and make an on the spot assessment of the ground situation. Logistics and modalities of a possible repatriation of those workers who want to return will be worked out following the MoS’ visit.Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs
Swaraj said her deputy VK Singh is leaving for Saudi Arabia to oversee the evacuation process, adding that the Indian embassy in the Gulf nation was running five camps to feed the affected people.
Sources said 3,172 Indian workers in Riyadh have not been paid their salary dues for several months but are getting regular rations.
Separately, 2,450 Indian workers belonging to the Saudi Oger Company are housed in five camps in Jeddah, Mecca and Taif. Since 25 July, the company had stopped providing meals to the workers besides defaulting on their salaries, the sources said.
The Indian Consulate in Jeddah, with the assistance of the diaspora, has provided rations to the workers which should be sufficient for the next 8–10 days, they said.
Low oil prices have forced the Saudi government to slash spending since last year, putting heavy pressure on the finances of local construction firms which rely on state contracts.
As a result, some companies have been struggling to pay foreign workers and have laid off tens of thousands, leaving many with no money for food let alone for tickets home.
Junior foreign minister VK Singh, will travel to Saudi Arabia next week.
Swaraj said on Saturday that India’s other junior foreign minister, MJ Akbar, would take up the issue with the authorities in the two Middle Eastern countries, saying the government was monitoring the situation on an hourly basis.
“While situation in Kuwait is manageable, matters are much worse in Saudi Arabia,” she said in a tweet.
Separately, the Consulate General of India in Jeddah said on its official Twitter feed on Saturday said it had distributed food to the Indian community in Jeddah:
It posted pictures of Indian people queuing up to collect the food packets.
The hardships faced by Indian migrants come amid rising protests about working conditions in Saudi Arabia.
Hundreds of foreign workers at construction firm Saudi Oger staged a public protest in Jeddah at the weekend to demand seven months of unpaid wages, Saudi Arabia’s Arab News reported. They were dispersed by police after disrupting traffic.
Saudi Oger did not respond to a telephone call and an email seeking comment.
The Saudi government says it investigates any complaints of companies not paying wages and if necessary, obliges them to do so with fines and other penalties.