Saudi may relax naturalisation law in select categories

The State government plans to seek six months’ amnesty for expatriate workers who face the Nitaqat (naturalisation) law in Saudi Arabia.

A meeting of officials convened by Minister for Non-Resident Keralites K.C. Joseph here on Sunday discussed this as one of the options that Chief Minister Oommen Chandy should explore during his visit to New Delhi for discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Tuesday.

The meeting decided to open helpdesks at the Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Karipur international airports to assist migrant workers who were forced to return from Saudi Arabia. The helpdesks will collect information about the returnees. The Non-Resident Keralites Affairs Department will open a 24x7 call centre at the NoRKA office here, an official release quoted Mr. Joseph as saying. Mr. Joseph is accompanying the Chief Minister to Delhi.

The Kudumbasree Mission, functioning under the Social Welfare Department, has decided to join the State government’s efforts to create a credible database on the status of Gulf migrants. Beginning this week, the mission will conduct a door-to-door survey to collect information about migrants. The data will be submitted to the government in two months for finalising its strategies for their rehabilitation, Social Welfare Minister M.K. Muneer said.

Relaxation

Special Correspondent writes from Kochi: The Saudi Arabian authorities might consider relaxation in the Nitaqat norms in certain categories of work, such as municipal sanitation, where it is hard to find Saudi nationals to work.

Official Saudi media reported on Sunday that the Ministry of Labour would soon set up a commission to oversee the work of contractors and suggest reduction in the Saudization percentage for contracting companies that executed government projects. A senior Labour Ministry official has said the current percentage of mandatory employment of Saudi nationals in contracting companies that carry out sanitation and street cleaning projects will be reduced.

Many municipal authorities in the kingdom had complained that because of the strict Nitaqat norms, the contracting companies were not willing to take up cleaning work. This had led to piling up of garbage on the streets. The companies were finding it hard to hire Saudis because these jobs required them to work outdoors for several hours in the sun. Street cleaning and other sanitation works have been hit hard by the Saudization programme as almost 100 per cent of the workers in this sector are foreigners, many of them illegal.

Saudi media have, quoting Ministry data, reported that around two million foreign workers will lose their jobs because of the strict implementation of the Nitaqat law.

Labour inspectors and police officers are now routinely conducting raids on enterprises suspected of employing illegal workers (who include ‘free visa’ holders who are working not for their original sponsors).

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