India said on Sunday that it will send a government minister to Saudi Arabia to try to bring back more than 10,000 Indian workers who are facing a “food crisis” because they are unable to afford meals after being laid off from their jobs.
The decision to evacuate Indian workers comes a day after the Embassy of India in Riyadh and Consulate in Jeddah began arranging food through community support for the workers who had been living in inhuman conditions in labour camps after losing jobs in slump-hit Saudi economy.
The airlift operation is likely to take place in the next few days.
Low oil prices have forced the Saudi government to slash spending since last year, putting heavy pressure on the finances of local construction firms which rely on state contracts.
Late on Saturday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj appealed to 30 lakhs Indians in that country to help their “fellow brothers and sisters”, asserting that there is nothing “mightier” than the collective will of the Indian nation.
“We have asked @IndianEmbRiyadh to provide free ration to the unemployed Indian workers in Saudi Arabia,” she said in a series of tweets. Ms Swaraj said Indians in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were facing various problems relating to their work and wages and that the “matters are much worse” in the former.
Minister of State for External Affairs, VK Singh, will travel to Saudi Arabia next week.
Ms Swaraj said on Saturday that Minister of State for external affairs, MJ Akbar, would take up the issue with the authorities in the two Middle Eastern countries, saying the government was monitoring the situation on an hourly basis.
“I assure you that no Indian worker rendered unemployed in Saudi Arabia will go without food. I am monitoring this on hourly basis,” she said. Swaraj said a large number of Indians have lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and that their employers have not paid wages and closed down their factories.