No exodus of Indians from Saudi Arabia

Jeddah: Terming the ‘Nitaqat’ law as an “opportunity” for those who are stuck in Saudi Arabia for years, India on Saturday said that contrary to perceptions, the number of Indians coming to the Gulf Kingdom has increased “significantly” in the last few months.

“There is no exodus of people. The number of Indians who have come to Saudi Arabia in the past three months have risen significantly according to Saudi authorities,” said Sibi George, Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia.

He stressed that the Nitaqat programme and the three months grace period given till July 3 is an opportunity for those who have been overstaying in Saudi and have not visited India since 1997.

“Every Indian overstaying here have been given an opportunity to correct their legal status, to find a new job or to go back to India and return without any penalty,” George told PTI here.

The ‘Nitaqat’ programme, which is meant to regularise foreign workers, makes it mandatory for local companies to hire one Saudi national for every 10 migrant workers. Those who fail to find another job or a sponsor has to go back.

As a result of this law, a number of people who were working without valid work permits and runaways have come under the scanner.

Once the grace period time till July 3 ends, all those expatriates who are found without valid papers will be jailed and heavily penalised.

As of May 20, 75,000 Indians have registered with the Indian Embassy in Riyadh and the Consulate in Jeddah to be processed and be send back with ’emergency certificate’.

According to official figures, off the total processed applications of 56,734, there are 21,331 people from Uttar Pradesh as against 3,610 from Kerala. There are over two million Indian expatriates in Saudi Arabia.

“Most of the Indians who have approached us are those who have not got the opportunity to go back to India,” George explained.

Indian officials here explained that the Nitaqat law has not affected Indians much, as in the last three months, 120 companies have approached them with jobs for people who might have been affected by the Nitaqat.

They added that this is the first time since 1997, the Saudi authorities have give an opportunity for expatriates illegally staying in the country to go back with without any penalty.

Contrary to other countries, an expatriate working here and who wants to leave the country needs to get an exit certificate from the Saudi authorities before they can fly out.

As a result, many Indians who have overstayed their visa permit, or have left their original sponsors to work with some one else have been stuck here since 1997. (PTI)

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