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India official in Saudi Arabia to help starving workers

3 August 2016 8:08

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India has sent one of its deputy foreign ministers to Saudi Arabia to help thousands of Indian workers who have been left to starve in the kingdom.

According to Indian Foreign Ministry, Vijay Kumar Singh, who left New Delhi for Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, would try to bring back the workers after they lost their jobs, leaving them with no money to return home.

Authorities have not given any figure on how many people would be repatriated.

On Saturday, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swara said more than 10,000 Indians in the Arab state were facing a “food crisis.”

She appealed to an estimated three million Indians living in Saudi Arabia who are better off than the dying workers for help to alleviate the economic hardship.

“Large number of Indians has [sic] lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The employers have not paid wages, closed down their factories,” she tweeted.

Riyadh claims that its foreign labor inspectors investigate all complaints against companies and employers who are unfair to their employees.


Migrant workers, who work for Saudi Binladin Group, gather as they ask for a final settlement over salary issue, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 29, 2016. © Reuters

The Indian Consulate General in Jeddah said on its official Twitter feed on Saturday that it had distributed thousands of kilograms of food over the past days to help the starving workers.

The hardships faced by Indian migrants come amid rising protests about working conditions in Saudi Arabia, which is grappling with worsening economic problems.

Hundreds of foreign workers at construction firm Saudi Oger reportedly staged a protest rally in Jeddah at the weekend to demand seven months of unpaid wages. They were dispersed by police after disrupting traffic.

Meanwhile, activists and officials said Tuesday that thousands of jobless Indians, Filipinos and Pakistanis are stranded and destitute in Saudi Arabia following a sharp drop in the price of crude.

Garry Martinez, the chairman of the Migrante group, which works for the millions of Filipino overseas workers worldwide, said some Filipinos “have nothing to eat and have to go through the garbage for food.”

Low oil prices have forced the Saudi government to slash spending since last year, putting pressure on 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.

Indians are among millions of poor Asians working in the Persian Gulf states, where human rights groups say many suffer exploitation and abuses including non-payment of wages.

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