"There is no way except to obey the Saudi Arabian law," says Vayalar Ravi
As the deadline for expatriates without valid work permits or employment in Saudi Arabia is set to end on July 3 under the Nitaqat (naturalisation) labour law, the Indian government has made elaborate arrangements for their smooth exit as they have to leave the Kingdom before the expiry of the deadline.
Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi told The Hindu over telephone from Kochi on Sunday that the process was being carried out by the Indian Embassy in Riyadh and its consulate in Jeddah and so far he had not received any complaint. “There is no way except to obeying the Saudi Arabian law,” he said, adding that he had no information about the possibility of the King extending the deadline.
10 per cent quota
As per the law, every firm in the Kingdom, both private and government, has to reserve 10 per cent of jobs for Saudi nationals. This would apply to everyone, including small shops and other commercial establishments. Those expatriates, who are found without work permit or valid documents, could be arrested and heavily penalised by the law enforcers.
Of the around 20 lakh Indians working in Saudi Arabia, majority of them belonged to Kerala. Informed sources said the Nitaqat would mainly affect the semi-skilled workers. The amnesty was supposed to end in March this year but the King gave a three-month extension up to July 3.
The Indian Embassy in the Kingdom is giving Emergency Certificates to such expatriates (around 75,000) who have registered themselves with the embassy authorities, and has asked them to get their final exit visa from the Saudi government to leave the country.
Though expatriates from many Asian countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Yemen are working in Saudi Arabia, a majority of them belong to India.
The idea of reservation came after the Arab Spring and Riyadh wanted to take measures to ensure employment for its youth. Indians who changed jobs without getting an endorsement on their visas might be in trouble.
The Kerala government, which expected large-scale return of jobless Keralites from Saudi, has taken proactive measures by trying to rehabilitate them, including providing interest-free loans.
Informed sources here said the problem in implementing Nitaqat for the Saudi employers was that not only they had to reserve 10 per cent jobs but also give a minimum of 3,000 Saudi Riyals (one Riyal is equal to about Rs. 15) per month as salary to them. Whereas expatriates workforce, including Indians would work for even 900 or 1000 Saudi Riyals per month, they said.