• Statement by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in Rajya Sabha on Problems Faced by Indians in Gulf Countries

New Delhi. 11 August 2016. The Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj in a written statement in reply to a starred question laid on the Table of the Rajya Sabha today said that there is around 8 million strong resident Indian community in the Gulf countries. An estimated 70% of them are blue collar workers. Indian Missions in Gulf countries receive various types of complaints from Indian workers including non-payment/delayed payment of wages, sudden closure of companies, ill treatment, excessive working hours, filing false charges with police authorities, withholding of passports, dishonouring terms of the contract, exit visa, etc.

The economies of Gulf countries are facing an economic downturn due to fall in crude oil prices. In particular, those employed in oil & gas and construction sectors are among the most vulnerable where downsizing and lay-offs have been reported. There are some reports of Indian workers being asked to leave before completion of their existing contracts. Instances of unpaid salaries for last few months and non-availability of food in some labour camps of two big companies in Saudi Arabia have also been reported by Indian workers.

The Government is closely monitoring the situation and is taking all possible steps to ensure the welfare and protection of the Indian community. In this context, Gen. (Dr.) V.K. Singh (Retd.), Minister of State for External Affairs visited Saudi Arabia from August 3-5, 2016 and had a very fruitful meeting with Saudi Minister of Labour and Social Development, Mufrej Al Haqqabani, on August 3 in Riyadh to address problems being faced by a section of Indian workers. He also visited labour camps to know firsthand the concerns of Indian workers. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz has personally intervened and has given instructions for resolution of problems at the earliest. The Government of Saudi Arabia has assured all possible assistance for the Indian workers.

Our Missions and Posts have been pro-active in liaising with the host countries in resolving difficulties faced by Indian workers. In addition, the institutional framework for supporting the welfare of Indian community abroad has been considerably strengthened during the last few years. The Indian Community Welfare Fund has been extended to all our Missions and Posts abroad to meet contingency expenditure for welfare activities for overseas Indian citizens who are in distress on a means tested basis. Multilingual helplines have been set up in India and in Gulf countries. Indian Worker Resource Centre (IWRC) has also been set up in Dubai, UAE that provides toll-free helpline and walk-in counselling facilities. Four more IWRCs have been approved in Sharjah, UAE, Riyadh and Jeddah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

The strength of Indian community in Saudi Arabia is relatively stable. As per statistics available with our Mission, the size of the Indian community, which was 2.75 million in December 2014 increased to 2.96 million in November 2015 and further to 3.05 million in February 2016. The government maintains a database of ECR category workers going to ECR countries.