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Indian minister to discuss expats’ issue in Riyadh
By Ashraf Padanna April 02, 2013
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KOZHIKODE: Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi will lead a delegation to Saudi Arabia to discuss the return of Indian expatriates after the strict enforcement of Nitaqat (naturalisation) laws in the kingdom.

“It has been decided to send a delegation to Saudi Arabia to assess the situation in the labour front there. I’ll be leading the delegation which will be leaving for the kingdom in a couple of days,” Ravi told a Malayalam television channel on Monday.

Ravi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and discussed the situation after reports of “exodus” of Indians working in the kingdom on the so called “free visa” which is illegal.

Top officials including National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon also attended the meeting.

Ravi said he would convene a meeting of other concerned ministers, especially from the southern Indian state of Kerala, which is the topmost labour exporter for the Gulf nations, to discuss ways to minimise the damage and rehabilitate the returning migrants.

Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the government would meet the travel expenses of the migrants returning from Saudi Arabia.

He urged the federal government to seek a six-month general amnesty from Saudi Arabia for those affected by Nitaqat policy.

Some 500 expatriates from Kerala illegally working in the kingdom have already returned and authorities fear it could go to as high as 50,000 if the norms are strictly enforced in Saudi Arabia where more than half a million legal migrants from the state are estimated to be working.

Making a statement in the state assembly, the chief minister said his state would also ask the Centre, among other things, to see that those who return were not send through deportation routes, that would result in a “travel ban” to the returned to Gulf.

“No one could question the rules of another country, but it is true that the tightened Saudi law will create difficulty and problems for the expatriates,” he said.

“At the most, what we can do is to make use of the cordial relations with the kingdom and try to resolve the matter.”

The Centre has seized of the matter and it would be resolved at the highest level, Chandy said, adding, the state had already brought the seriousness of the situation to the attention of prime minister.

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