India feeds 'starving' and unpaid labourers in Saudi Arabia

India feeds 'starving' and unpaid labourers in Saudi Arabia
2 min read
31 Jul, 2016
India's foreign ministry has launched a food programme to feed thousands of Indian labourers stuck in Saudi Arabia's camps and having no money after being laid off or unpaid.
Labourers in the Gulf have reported meagre rations or no food at all [Getty]

India is feeding more than 10,000 "starving" Indian labourers stranded in the Gulf with no wages after losing their jobs.

Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj described the situation for Indian workers as a "food crisis" as the workers were left stranded in the Gulf after losing their jobs, and with no money to buy food or to return to India.

In a series of tweets she warned that Indian migrant workers were facing "extreme hardship" and that two junior foreign ministers will be sent to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to handle the issue.

"Large number of Indians have lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The employers have not paid wages (and) closed down their factories," Swaraj said late on Saturday.

"As a result our brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are facing extreme hardship. While situation in Kuwait is manageable, matters are much worse in Saudi Arabia.

"The number of Indian workers facing food crisis in Saudi Arabia is over ten thousand."

Indians are among millions of poor Asians working in the Gulf states where human rights groups say many suffer exploitation and abuses.


Mass sackings have taken place in Saudi Arabia where low oil prices have affected construction companies, with thousands of Indian labourers not getting wages owed to them and with no channels for redress.

The situation is now so bad that Indian media were reporting that workers were "starving" in camps with no way of returning home.

The Indian consulate in Jeddah posted a series of pictures on Twitter showing its nationals queuing up for food packets, eggs, spices and salt provided by its officials.


India Today had reported that Indians had been left "starving" in camps, after being sacked and unable to afford flights home.
 
Some reports said that Indian workers had gone without food for three to four days forcing the foreign ministry to intervene.

Foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup told AFP that a decision on bringing the workers home would be taken only after a junior minister visits Saudi Arabia.

Nearly three million Indians live and work in Saudi Arabia, according to the foreign ministry.

In November 2014, Gulf and Asian labour ministers agreed on a series of initiatives aimed at boosting protection and improving conditions of employment for foreign workers in the Gulf.

Agencies contributed to this story