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Dhaka Tribune

Over 1,00,000 expatriate Indians may face arrest in KSA

Update : 25 May 2013, 10:15 AM

As Saudi Arabia implements its controversial naturalisation law or Nitaqat, which seeks to replace foreigners in companies with its own people, India is in the midst of a gigantic effort to bring back over 75,000 people in the next few months, reports Times of india.

After having failed to regularise their work status, these people have applied for emergency exit certificates to leave the country by July 3, the deadline set by Saudi Arabia for deportation of illegal workers.

If these people, whose number is growing, can’t leave the country by July 3, they are likely to be arrested.

On his way to Saudi Arabia, in what is first bilateral visit by an Indian foreign minister to the country in five years, Salman Khurshid said he will take up the issue with his counterpart, Prince Saud Al Faisal, Saturday even as he added that Saudi authorities were well within their rights to implement their laws.

“In terms of logistics involved, it obviously is a challenge but we have a grace period and we need to do whatever we can during that period,” said Khurshid.

Nitaqat makes it obligatory for companies to hire a minimum number of local people before employing foreigners and while the law is not new, Saudi authorities have now started to identify ‘illegal’ workers and send them back.

Out of the over 8 million expatriates in Saudi Arabia, Indians account for 2.45m, the largest.

Out of those who have applied for emergency certificates, applications of close to 57,000 have been processed by Indian authorities. However, the Saudi authorities are processing these applications only at the rate of 500 per day making it impossible for India to meet the July 3 deadline. According to the Indian government,

Nitaqat mostly impacts blue collar-workers who have stayed back illegally in the country after the expiry of their work visa.

“For all we know, after all this many more Indians would be able to come to Saudi Arabia legitimately,” said Khurshid in Jeddah.

Khurshid said massive rehabilitation work will be necessary also for the rehabilitation of those coming back. “We have already warned the state governments that a little bit of hand holding will be required,” said the minister.

Khurshid’s visit to the country is the latest by Indian ministers and bureaucrats since Saudi authorities announced their decision to identify illegal workers. Those who have visited the country for a dialogue over the issue include minister for overseas Indian affairs Vyalar Ravi, Junior Foreign Minister E Ahmed and adviser to PM TKA Nair.

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