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Saudi law forces migrants back to Kerala

New job quotas for local workforce is bad news for overseas labor

A Kerala migrant arrives home from Saudi Arabia A Kerala migrant arrives home from Saudi Arabia
  • ucanews.com reporter, Thiruvananthapuram
  • India
  • April 12, 2013
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Mecca has been a second home to Hydrose Saidalavi for 29 years. But the 51-year old migrant laborer returned to India last week because of a recently introduced law in Saudi Arabia that reserves 30 percent of jobs for local people.

"Now I can’t go back,” Saidalavi told ucanews.com at his home in Kozhikode in Kerala.

He is among 25,000 migrants who have already returned since 2012. Around another 200,000 Keralites from Kozhikode and Malappuram districts are expected to return soon.

According to the state government, 656,723 people from Kerala are among the 6.5 million expats working in Saudi Arabia.

Raveendran Madhavan, who returned last week, said he was forced to leave without receiving salary for the past two months.

“We all left after the Saudi government started raiding workers’ camps. Around 700 people from Kerala are detained in deportation camps. I didn’t want to end up in a Saudi jail,” said Madhavan.

But “I’ve no regrets, I’m safe here,” said the electrician. He worked for three and half years in the eastern Saudi city of Dammam but did not save much from his 1,000 riyal monthly salary because he had to pay 200,000 rupees (US$ 3,800) for a visa.

Madhavan said the Saudi government decided to change the labor law as a result of the Arab Spring which spread across the Arab world, toppling several regimes, including Egypt and Libya.

The law—Nitaqat--was announced at the end of 2011 and was to be fully implemented by the end of last month.

The Saudi Arabian government says something had to be done to help unemployed Saudis under the age of 30 who are unemployed, but the law has ended the dreams of many Kerala people.

“Saudi has been the most favored destination for migrant laborers from Kerala. Nitaqat is going to end that dream for many. Most of those returning to Kerala are poor and semi-skilled or unskilled,” Hakkeem Lukmanul, a Kerala journalist, told ucanews.com. “It’s going to create a social crisis in the state.”

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the state government will do everything possible to rehabilitate those returning from Saudi Arabia.

“I’ve sought a special budget for their rehabilitation and submitted a proposal to the federal government,” he said.

The state is sending a high-level ministerial team to evaluate the situation and has called on the federal government to ask Saudi Arabia to ease off on work camp raids, Chandy said.  

 

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