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No crisis in Kuwait says ambassador, as Saudi issue gets resolved
August 6, 2016, 4:19 pm

Indian ambassador to Kuwait H.E. Sunil Jain has denied the existence of any case where Indians workers in the country face food and shelter problems like those encountered recently in Saudi Arabia recently. The ambassador was responding to reports in some sections of the Indian media that thousands of workers in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia had no food or shelter after they were terminated by their employers.

Ambassador Jain acknowledged that salaries of around 12,000 workers of a private company were delayed for three months, but food and shelter were provided for them, unlike in the Saudi situation. The matter regarding the delay of payment of salary was being resolved, he added.

There was also an issue regarding employment of 215 nurses in the emergency sector that was not being formalised, but assurances were given that this problem would be resolved very soon, said the ambassador.

However, the Indian embassy in Kuwait is facing a larger issue, out of a total of 870,000 Indians in the country, around 29,000 have expired residence permits and are residing in the country illegally. Many of these Indians are trapped and unable to rectify their status or leave the country easily.

The fear of ill treatment and lengthy procedures for deportation, which at times can take up to six months, prevents many residency law violators from turning themselves in. Though the embassy of India is trying its best to facilitate the departure, procedures can sometimes take as long as six months, said the embassy.

Kuwait authorities claim a number of reasons in the delay in deportation, including pending criminal or financial cases that have to be cleared before repatriation. But this large number of violators who are unable to rectify their status and have to hide from the law is a grave cause of concern.

Residence violators are unable to have access to either employment, medical or education facilities and are constantly in threat of being arrested at the various checkpoints set up across the country.

Many end up in illegal trades as they are unable to become part of the mainstream workforce, giving way to an increase in criminal activities. The rise in illegals is believed to be the result of the sponsorship system or Kafala which has been termed as arbitrary and outdated. Kuwait has announced its intention to scrap the system in favour of a new one.

In a first move, the word sponsor or Kafeel has already been eliminated and replaced with employer and employee. Kuwait has already set up a new system under the Public Authority of Manpower (PAM) which is expected to replace the old system. There is a substantial delay in its implementation even though it has become a priority and need of the hour is to restore Kuwait’s human and labor rights internationally.

Qatar has already announced that it will replace the sponsorship system with a new one in December giving more rights to workers and increased flexibility in changing jobs.

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj informed the Indian Parliament last week that the crisis related to over 10,000 Indians being stranded in Saudi Arabia due to becoming jobless has been resolved "satisfactorily".

She said that the Saudi monarch had accepted India's requests and instructed officials to address the issue immediately. The Saudi government will now give exit visas to the stranded Indians, as well as provide free medical facility and food to the workers living in camps. The government would also allow those eligible, to seek re-employment with other companies.

In a suo moto statement before both houses of Parliament, the External Affairs minister said, "I am happy to inform the House that the Saudi ruler has taken note of the plight of Indian workers... Saudi King has instructed his officials to resolve the issue immediately…and the matter has been satisfactorily resolved." She thanked the Saudi King and his government for their efforts in resolving the issue.

Swaraj credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the outcome, especially his efforts in building strong personal ties with the Saudi King and also between the two countries during his recent visit to the Islamic nation.

With the slowdown of regional economies due to the drop in oil prices the Indian government is expecting tens of thousands of Indian nationals to be laid off in the coming months.


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