KSA wants illegal workers out of the Kingdom

Indian ambassador in talks over mass repatriation of illegal workers

KSA has given illegal workers in the Kingdom six months to leave the country. Getty image.
KSA has given illegal workers in the Kingdom six months to leave the country. Getty image.

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Saudi Arabian government officials have assured counterparts in India that it is in full support of the repatriation of thousands of illegal Indian workers stranded in the Kingdom.

KSA’s deputy labour minister Abdulwaheed Al-Humaid and India’s Union Minister for Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi met yesterday (Saturday) to discuss the matter. The meeting followed news that KSA had announced a six-month amnesty on illegal immigrants, saying anyone who has overstayed their visas could leave the country without fear of punishment.

Ravi told reporters from local newspaper Arab News that India had taken several measures to fight illegal immigration and to ensure legal workers were protected. A draft Emigration Management Bill, which will replace the Emigration Act once ratified by government, is under discussion at the moment.

The new Bill is designed to tighten up emigration laws, and it’s also designed to eliminate rouge employment agencies and visa sponsors who leave workers high and dry once they’ve entered the country legally.

There are cases where, according to the paper, sponsors wait until a worker arrives legally, declares him a runaway, cancels the visa and sells it again – leaving the worker without a sponsor and illegally in the country.

The Saudi government wants this practise stamped out. Under the new Bill, sponsors will have to stump up SR2,000 per worker to file a work visa application.

The exact number of illegal immigrants in KSA is unknown, official estimates puts the number at between 30-50,000. There are about two million total Indian passport holders currently in the Kingdom.

Ravi told the paper the embassy was also working out the procedures for the mass repatriation of illegal immigrants during the Government’s amnesty period. Ravi also called on Indian workers to not abscond from their employers, and that they should stick to the terms of their contract.

“I have opened the door for further discussions with the Saudi Ministry of Labor,” he added, adding: “An online pilot project to check labour fraud and visa problems has been launched … and that is in the interest of the workers and the immigrants,” Ravi told Arab News.

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