Dubai: About 18,000 Indian workers in Saudi Arabia, who had applied for emergency exit papers amid concerns about possible job losses after a new labour law, have got their travel documents processed.
An estimated 18,000 Indian workers, out of about 60,000 applicants, have had their emergency travel documents processed, an Indian Embassy official was quoted as saying by the Arab News.
Sibi George, deputy chief of the mission, was responding to figures released in the Indian Parliament on Wednesday by Overseas Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi.
“Actually this number of 18,000 represents those whose cases have been processed by the Indian diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia,” George said.
George said over 60,000 Indian workers are seeking emergency travel documents. He added that many workers from other countries are also seeking emergency travel documents.
Sharif Alam, an Indian community leader, said, “Indian workers have been approaching the embassy and the Jeddah-based consulate on a daily basis for travel documents.”
He said centers across the Kingdom are helping workers submit their applications.
A delegation led by Ravi visited the Kingdom two weeks ago to raise concerns about the country's Nitaqat programme.
During the talks, both sides had agreed to set up a joint working group to address “all immediate problems” facing the Indian community, including issues related to overstaying workers.
The 'Nitaqat' law makes it mandatory for local companies to hire one Saudi national for every 10 migrant workers. There has been widespread perception that the new policy will lead to denial of job opportunities for a large number of Indians working there.
Over two million Indians are currently working in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government was implementing the Nitaqat law to cut unemployment in the country.
More than 200,000 foreigners have been deported from the country over the past few months as part of labour market reforms aimed at putting more Saudi nationals into private sector jobs, where they now make up only a tenth of the workforce.