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Illegal Indian workers in Saudi Arabia desperate to return home
Monday February 3, 2014 7:31 PM, IANS

A group of Indian cleaners in Saudi Arabia, living in pathetic conditions after their work contracts expired two years ago, are desperate to return home.

The workers, mostly from the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, said they were recruited by a maintenance and contracting company in Taif city in Mecca Province in 2010, but have since then not been paid their salaries on time and were denied their residency permits, the Arab News reported Monday. Taif Municipality's cleaning project is under a contractor.

"We are just exhausted and frustrated. We do not want to stay anymore with our employer and we want to return home," one of the workers was quoted as saying.

The workers said the employer has not handed over their iqamas, residency permits given to expatriates in Saudi Arabia, to them since their arrival in the country four years ago and last week one of their colleagues was detained by security forces during a campaign against illegal residents.

They said it was common practice among municipality cleaning companies across the country not to hand over iqamas to the cleaners as a precautionary measure to prevent them from fleeing their jobs.

The workers went on strike twice for non-payment of wages and for not getting their iqamas.

Last year, police had to intervene to quell a protest by these workers.

Taif Municipality has not renewed the cleaning contract of the company which expired in October 2013 due to poor work record and frequent labour strikes that resulted in garbage piling up in the hill resort city. Since then, the condition of these workers has further aggravated.

The workers said they get only 600 Saudi riyals (around $160) per month and that too was not paid on time, pushing them into extremely difficult conditions.

"We are without iqama or money. We had asked the Indian consulate in Jeddah for help and they had advised us to come over to Jeddah to lodge an official complaint, but due to having no iqama we simply couldn't travel," one of them said.

They alleged that their employer was trying to send them to other companies in major cities now.

They alleged that they were brought to Jeddah for a few days then moved back to Taif, and again after a few weeks they were taken to Riyadh to work in some other companies.

"We are being moved all around without iqama in our employer's transport vehicle and only the driver has papers," the worker said said.

They said one of their colleagues, V Bhoomaih, who was detained by Riyadh police a week ago for not having Iqama, is still in the lock-up.

"Since then we are not stepping outside for fear of arrest as massive inspection is taking place in some areas of Riyadh city," one of the workers said.

The workers have requested the Indian embassy in Riyadh to help them return to India.

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