The government of India is working on a plan to evacuate thousands of construction workers from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait who are going hungry after being laid off as low oil prices squeeze building projects in the Gulf kingdoms.
A government minister will be despatched to Saudi Arabia this week, while over the past several days the Indian consulate in Jeddah has organised the emergency distribution of more than 15,000kg of food.
Up to 10,000 workers are thought to be facing a "food crisis" in the two Gulf states, with the situation in Saudi Arabia considered most severe.
Large number of Indians have lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The employers have not paid wages, closed down their factories– Tweet from India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj
Low oil prices have forced the Saudi government to cut spending, creating severe problems for Saudi construction firms that depend on state contracts.
According to Reuters companies have laid off tens of thousands of workers, leaving many with no money for food, let alone for tickets home.
India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said on 30 July that more than 10,000 Indians in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were facing a food crisis, and appealed to an estimated 3 million Indians living in Saudi Arabia for help.
"Large number of Indians have lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The employers have not paid wages, closed down their factories," she tweeted on Saturday, 30 July.
One of the country’s two junior foreign ministers, V.K. Singh, will travel to Saudi Arabia this week, Reuters reported.
Consulate General of India in Jeddah said on its official Twitter feed that it had distributed 15,475kg of food between 31 July and 1 August with help from the Indian community in Saudi Arabia.
On Twitter it posted pictures of Indian people queuing up to collect the food packets.
Today, India’s consul general met with officials from the Saudi ministries of labour and foreign affairs to discuss the crisis.
The plight of Indian workers came to a head over the weekend as police in Jeddah were called to disperse a protest over non-payment of wages by the construction firm, Saudi Oger.
Hundreds of foreign workers staged a rally to demand seven months of unpaid wages, reports Saudi Arabia’s Arab News.
In a separate report Arab News quotes an unnamed Saudi Oger source as saying that 31,000 Saudi and foreign employees have lodged complaints with the the government’s Labor Office about delayed wages.
The company stopped getting government projects after the government received complaints of nonpayment of wages, Arab News reports.
Image: Emergency food distribution to Indian workers in Saudi Arabia began on 31 July, 2016, by Consulate General of India, Jeddah (Consulate General of India)