Bodies of Indians 'piling up' in Saudi morgues

Bodies of Indians 'piling up' in Saudi morgues
2 min read
12 December, 2016
Dozens of Indian expatriates who have died in Saudi Arabia have been left in morgues as families fight to have their bodies repatriated so they can lay them to rest.
Image used for demonstrative purposes only [AFP]

The bodies of at least 150 workers from southern India have remained in mortuaries in Saudi Arabia for almost a year due to families being unable to afford the steep bills to bring them home.

India's embassy in Riyadh has done little to change the situation, with letters and calls from the country's ministry of external affairs going unanswered, reported the Times of India.

For its part, the embassy has blamed its Saudi employees for mishandling communications.

According to a source who spoke to the Times of India, even when families manage to send coffins back to India the process is cumbersome and can take weeks.

Mohd Taher, an Indian computer programmer based in Saudi Arabia, says the process of transferring a body to India can take almost a year.

Taher recalls the case of a woman named Asima who was allegedly tortured to death by her Saudi employer. Following an intervention by volunteers who helped expedite the process, her body was returned to Hyderabad on 20 May.

"This actually took less time. There are cases where bodies are lying in morgues for eight months as families can't pursue employers or MEA officials," said Taher. He added that in the case of an accident, it can take over a month to have a body returned.

"Since the procedures are so cumbersome, a woman who came to visit her son had to be buried in Saudi," Taher explained.

According to some local sources, Saudi employers also pose a huge obstacle to the repatriation process, since they are unwilling to shoulder the financial burden of transporting the bodied. This can cost around $5,900 to $8,800.

In order to have a body flown back to India, four letters must be sent to the Indian embassy in Riyadh. This communication should include the details of medical and police reports, consent and a declaration that monetary assistance will not be demanded from Saudi authorities or the employer.