We will help Indian workers in Saudi Arabia: Vayalar Ravi

Dubai, May 1 (IANS) The government of India plans to hire three legal firms to help Indian workers in Saudi Arabia who are facing problems after that country's implementation of a new labour policy.

India's Minister for Overseas Indian affairs Vayalar Ravi told the media in Riyadh that the Indian embassy in the Saudi capital will engage three legal firms to help Indian workers in need of help.

"This is a work in progress and we will continue to enlarge this panel to include more legal firms and lawyers," he said.

"What is happening in Saudi Arabia is a natural consequence (of local laws), and the kingdom's labour policy is non-discriminatory. We will exert all efforts to legalise the status of our workers," Ravi was quoted as saying at a press conference in Riyadh after a meeting with Saudi Deputy Minister for Interior Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Salem.

Ravi is in Saudi Arabia with Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed, and T.K.A. Nair, advisor to India's prime minister, as part of a "goodwill mission".

Saudi Arabia has assured India that it would tackle the issue of illegal Indian workers in that country with a "humanitarian approach", the Arab News reported Wednesday.

Nitaqat, the new labour policy, makes it mandatory for all Saudi companies to reserve 10 percent of jobs for Saudi nationals.

Earlier, at a community meeting in the Saudi capital, Ravi said that the Indian embassy has enlisted the services of 10 community schools in Saudi Arabia to collect emergency travel documents of Indian workers.

While calling on Indian state governments to take action against unscrupulous recruiting agents who send workers abroad illegally, the minister said: "For the past several years, my ministry has been carrying out advertisement campaigns in various languages to safeguard the interests of overseas workers... but I am sad such campaigns have not delivered results."

Meanwhile, a joint panel formed by India and Saudi Arabia to look into the problems of Indian workers in the Gulf nation is scheduled to meet Wednesday.

There are around two million expatriate Indians in Saudi Arabia, many of them working as blue collar workers.

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