India Foreign Minister warns of ‘food crisis’ facing labourers as construction in Gulf states slows
Indians are among millions of Asians working in Gulf states where human rights groups say many suffer exploitation and abuses
New Delhi has been working to feed more than 10,000 Indian labourers stranded in the Gulf with no wages after losing their jobs, in what Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj referred to as a “food crisis”.
In a series of tweets, Swaraj said the migrant workers were facing “extreme hardship” and that two junior foreign ministers will be sent to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to take up the issue with authorities.
“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.
“As a result our brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are facing extreme hardship. While [the] 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 10,000.”
Indians are among millions of Asians working in Gulf states where human rights groups say many suffer exploitation and abuses, including the non-payment of wages, with no channels for redress.
Indian media said the workers were “starving” in camps with no way of returning home, as Gulf countries face a drop in oil revenues from falling prices, prompting a downturn in construction and layoffs. 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 staff.
Swaraj was responding late
on Saturday to a series of tweets from people saying Indians had gone without food for three to four days in the camps where they were living.
Foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said a decision on bringing the workers home would be taken only after a junior minister visits Saudi Arabia.
Nearly 3 million Indians live and work in Saudi Arabia, according to the foreign ministry, constituting one of the largest populations of Indian passport holders outside of India.
In 2014, Gulf and Asian labour ministers agreed on a series of initiatives aimed at boosting protection and improving conditions for foreign workers in the region.