Jeddah: Indian delegation discusses Nitaqat fall-out with Saudis

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Jeddah: A high level delegation led by Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi, met Saudi authorities to discuss ways to maximise the availability of alternative jobs to Indians hit by the Nitaqat scheme, and to smoothen the exit of those who may have to leave the country.

Accompanied by E. Ahamed, Minister of State for External Affairs, and Prime Minister’s Adviser T.K.A. Nair, Mr. Ravi met the Saudi Labour Minister Adel Fakieh, and Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal. The visit focused on the “welfare of the Indian community in the context of the Nitaqat programme and also to clarify to the Indian community that the ongoing developments in Saudi Arabia would not adversely affect those who are currently working legally in Saudi Arabia,” an India Embassy statement said.

Analysts point out that the Indian side is not contesting Riyadh’s decision to open up several more employment avenues for its nationals under the Nitaqat system, but is looking at maximizing the welfare of Indian citizens within these parameters.

The Saudi authorities have embarked on an energetic employment drive for its citizens after the Arab Spring, which was fuelled by legions of unemployed youth in countries such as Egypt and Yemen.

With the Saudi authorities expressing their seriousness to generate more employment by declaring illegal those businesses that do not employ a set percentage of locals, there has been a race to find jobs for the displaced expatriates in companies where they can still be legally drafted. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the Saudi monarch had granted a three month grace period during which the displaced expatriates can either legalise their status or head home in compliance with Saudi laws.

Indian MNCs lend a helping hand

Well established Indian companies operating in the Kingdom are opening their doors to accommodate a limited number of the qualified Indians who have been hit by the Saudi labour reforms. Ashok Leyland’s Western Auto Company, based in Dammam has expressed its readiness to recruit qualified executives and technicians, having a transferable residency permit. The Al Faraá Group — a major construction company running five major projects in the Kingdom — has offered jobs to carpenters, masons, helpers, electricians, plumbers, aluminium fitters, heavy duty drivers, light duty drivers and painters.

The Saudi gazette newspaper has reported that more than two million expatriates have already rectified their residency status. The daily pointed out that more than 100,000 companies have been identified for not meeting the targets for employing Saudis. Out of these, 33 are giant companies employing more than 3000 workers, 451 are large and 6,661 fall in the medium-scale category, while the rest are small establishments.

The Indian embassy pointed out that collection of applications for Emergency Certificates (ECs) for those Indians wanting to leave Saudi, but do not have a valid passport has been streamlined. Indian schools in Riyadh, Dammam, Jeddah, Jubail, Buraidah, Al-Khafji, Taif, Majmah and Tabuk have been opened up as centres for receiving emergency certificate applications. More than 50,000 Indians have already approached the embassy with a request for emergency travel documents.

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