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Three weeks into the labour crisis that has rendered many Indians jobless in Saudi Arabia, four Kerala residents reached Kochi airport Tuesday after the Saudi government met their travel expenses.
According to one of the returnees, Shabeer P P, the crisis-ridden construction firm Saudi Oger has not paid salaries to thousands of workers since January. They are staying in labour camps, where the government is supplying food twice a day, he said.
“There are workers who had worked in Saudi with this firm for two decades. The firm has asked the workers to give authorisation to the embassy for settling outstanding salary and allowances. But the workers are afraid as authorities have failed to give a conclusive answer about their apprehensions. None can blame them for this stand as their only savings would be the benefits accrued over the years,’’ said Shabeer, who returned after eight years of service with Saudi Oger.
Many workers’s residency permit (Ikama) has also expired.
“They are now overstaying illegally. The government can jail them or impose huge fines on them. I managed to leave Saudi as I got the exit visa just before the crisis,’’ said Shabeer.
Recalling how many jobless workers starved, Shabeer said the firm had engaged a catering agency to supply food to all camps. “When payment was due, the caterer stopped food supply. For a week, we survived on bread and water. Later, some of us ventured out and brought the crisis to public attention,” he said.