Lagging Saudi Arabia Economy Strands 10,000 Indian Workers Who Haven’t Been Paid In Months

The lagging economy in Saudi Arabia, combined with the drop in global oil prices, have resulted in approximately 10,000 Indian workers being stranded with no money and no food according to the New York Times. The Indian government is struggling to help the more than 10,000 people who have lost their jobs and, after not being paid for several months, have no way to get home and no money to survive.

On Monday, India’s government began plans to evacuate the laid off workers, more than 2,500 of whom are living in labor camps and have gone without food for the last 10 days. The Washington Post reports that India’s external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, spoke to Parliament on Monday and advised that their workers are hungry and thirsty. She went on to say that she had spoken to the Indian embassy in Saudi Arabia and asked them to send free food to the workers. Swaraj said that she was monitoring the situation personally and that the workers currently have about seven to 10 days worth of food.

Swaraj then took to Twitter to appeal to the three million Indian nationals who live in Saudi Arabia to help feed the stranded workers.

In two tweets she asked the Indian people to help their fellow brothers and sisters and said, “Nothing is mightier than the collective will of Indian nation.”

Swaraj also retweeted updates on the progress of the food getting to the Indian workers in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is home to thousands of migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. As the largest economy in the Middle East, the demand for workers has been high in the past. The drop in oil revenue is having a dramatic effect on the economy in both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, resulting in fewer construction jobs, more company closures, and massive layoffs. Many of the workers in Saudi Arabia are not only broke, but they are also unable to obtain the necessary documentation in order to go home.

For those workers who may be able to gather up the money to fly home, there is some major red tape to cut through. Under Saudi Arabia’s rules, only the employer can sign the paperwork for the Indian citizens to leave the country. The Indian embassy also has its hands tied because they cannot issue emergency exit visas without the employer’s signature. They are currently appealing to Saudi officials to waive this rule so that they can help their people get home.

Unfinished construction in Saudi Arabia
People walking around unfinished construction project in Mecca, Saudi Arabia [Photo by Mosa'ab Elshamy/AP Images]

According to Sky News, things are so bad in Saudi Arabia right now that the Saudi Oger company has not paid any wages in over seven months. Of their 50,000 employees approximately 4,000 are Indian. The Saudi government has said that they will investigate any company accused of not paying wages and will fine them if it is true. However, Saudi Oger had even stopped providing food to the unpaid employees as well, according to India’s Consul General Mohammad Noor Rehman Sheikh.

India’s junior foreign minister VK Singh is heading to Saudi Arabia to begin arranging for the evacuation of the 10,000 Indian’s who need to go home. In the meantime, camps have been set up for them by the Indian Embassy to ensure they are receiving food and water.

If Saudi Arabia’s economy does not start rebounding soon, the Independent reports that it could bring down the ruling House of Saud. With the global oil price collapsing in 2014, many economies dependent on the resource are suffering. Saudi Arabia, in particular, is affected by the price of oil since more than 90 percent of its state revenue comes from oil. With almost a third of 15 to 24-year-olds out of work, and almost half of their population being under the age of 24, the potential for civil unrest is rising rapidly.

[Photo by Hasan Jamali/AP Images]