Work permits of most of these workers from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Kashmir, Bihar, Delhi, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab, and Maharashtra, had expired, forcing them to beg.
In videos that have gone viral, the workers said their only crime was begging after Saudi authorities identified them by going to their rented rooms and shifted them to the Shumaisi detention centre in Jeddah.
Among the workers at the detention centres include 39 from Uttar Pradesh, 10 from Bihar, five from Telangana, four each from Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir and Karnataka, and one from Andhra Pradesh.
Many workers, who broke down, said they were caught in a hopeless situation. “We have not committed any crime. We were forced to beg because of our situation as we lost our jobs. Now, we are languishing in the detention centres,” a worker complained.
Another said they were going through intolerable levels of hardship for more than four months. “We have seen workers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka being helped by the authorities of their countries and sent back to their respective countries. However, we are stuck here,” a worker rued.
Social worker and MBT leader Amjed Ullah Khan said the local authorities shifted the workers to the detention centres after ascertaining that they had been overstaying. “Those who did not have the ‘aqama’ (work permit) were later taken to the detention centres,” Amjed, who is in touch with the workers, told TOI.
“My brother passed away and my mother is critical. I want to be sent back to India,” a worker said in a video appeal. Amjed has written to Prime minister Narendra Modi, external affairs minister S Jaishankar, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri and Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ausaf Sayeed, brought to their notice the plight of the 450 Indian workers and urged the Centre to help the workers’ return to India.
When TOI contacted the Consulate General of India (CGI), Jeddah, to know if the workers were being helped to return to India, there was no response yet. On September 17, the Pravasi Bhartiya Sahayta Kendra (PBSK), a helpline of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), responded to Amjed Ullah Khan on Twitter and sought details of all the emigrants, their contact numbers and also contact numbers of their families so that they could be helped.
While 2.4 lakh Indian nationals had reportedly registered to return to India, only 40,000 have been able to come back.