Overseas Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi on Tuesday said Saudi Arabia King Abdullah had extended the deadline for implementing the legislation “Nitaqat” (naturalisation) by the country’s Labour Ministry from July 3 to November 3 this year. This decision would give some more breathing time to Indian expatriates to either find a new employment or return home.

Talking to The Hindu over phone, Mr. Ravi said that according to his information from the Indian embassy in Riyadh, during the four-month amnesty period, those expatriate workers who were jobless or without valid papers, could have the opportunity to change/join new jobs and get endorsement in this regard in their visa papers/passports. This was not allowed hitherto, he said.

Informed sources said the extension of time limit would help the Indian workers — most of them who would become jobless as employers now have to compulsorily implement 10 per cent reservation in jobs for locals — return to their homeland hassle-free without getting arrested or penalised.

Unemployment

Though over eight million expatriates, most of them from India, work in Saudi Arabia, the country has an unemployment problem with 12.5 per cent of its citizens being jobless.

Fearing revolution or protests à la Libya/Egypt, the Kingdom had first set the deadline for implementing “Nitaqat”, which was announced as early as 2011, but not enforced until April 4 this year. Later, it was extended up to July 3, and now to November 4.

The Kerala government and its politicians are proactive and have been frequently urging the Indian government to persuade the Saudi Kingdom to ensure that the Indian expatriates, particularly Malayalees living in huge numbers in the Gulf country, continued to stay in their jobs.