New Delhi/Berlin: Saudi Arabia`s new labour policy will affect only illegal immigrants and not genuine workers employed in the Kingdom, India`s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has said.
"Genuine workers don`t need to worry. It will impact only those who don`t have proper work permit," Khurshid told a news agency in the course of a brief chat in Berlin where this correspondent who had travelled with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week.
Khurshid said Indian workers play an important role in Saudi Arabia`s economy and the Kingdom`s authorities recognise this.
"Saudi Arabia needs Indian labour. Removal of illegal immigrants will open the doors for genuine workers," the minister said.
Saudi Arabia recently introduced a new policy called Nitaqat (classification) that seeks to remove illegal immigrants and boost employment for locals by reserving 10 percent of jobs for them. Over 300,000 firms in Saudi Arabia reportedly do not employ any locals and the Nitaqat policy seeks to deal firmly with this.
Under the new law introduced earlier this year, foreigners are allowed to only work for their legal sponsors and their spouses won`t be allowed to take up jobs. Also, the expatriates cannot perform any job other than the one mentioned in their job cards.
These provisions have sparked fears of mass deportation of Indian expatriates. There are more than two million Indians in Saudi Arabia and thousands of them do not have proper work permits. Nearly 4,000 Indian expatriates have already informed the Indian embassy in Riyadh that they don`t have proper work documents.
Khurshid said new Saudi law was not just for Indians and it would also affect thousands of illegal immigrants from countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. "For genuine workers it will open up opportunities," he said.
Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi and Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed are scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia later this month to discuss the matter with the authorities and find a possible solution.
After meeting Saudi Ambassador to India Saud Mohammed Alsati in New Delhi Friday, Ravi announced that the Indian government would provide all assistance to its workers in the Kingdom who do not have proper documents to return home.
There are 6.5 million Indians in the Gulf, including 2.45 million in Saudi Arabia. A large number of them are from the southern state of Kerala.