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First batch of retrenched Indian workers return from Saudi Arabia



Indian worker

New Delhi/Jeddah, Aug 11 : As the first batch of 26 retrenched Indian workers were on their way back home from Jeddah on Thursday, India appreciated Saudi Arabia’s prompt action to provide relief to distressed Indian workers in the Gulf kingdom.

“We appreciate the magnanimous view taken by the Saudi Arabian government of granting exit visas expeditiously and agreeing to bear the expenses for the travel of the workers,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in his weekly media briefing in New Delhi.

“The swift action to tackle a localised problem specific only to some companies of Saudi Arabia signifies the deep and abiding relationship that our two countries share,” he said.

Following reports of retrenchment of the workers by the Saudi Oger company, Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh visited Saudi Arabia last week.

According to Swarup, Singh “had very productive meetings” with the Saudi Minister for Labour and Social Development Mufrel Al Haqbani and other senior dignitaries.

“As a result of these meetings, the process of lodging claims and making arrangements for those Indian workers wishing to come back to India or relocate to another company has already started,” the spokesperson said.

The crisis also saw Saudi King Salman issuing a series of directives to address their problems, and earmarking 100 million Saudi Riyals ($26 million) to address the concerns of the workers and end their suffering.

King Salman also directed the Saudi passport department to facilitate exit visas and other procedures for the distressed workers.

Swarup said in his media briefing that the first batch of 26 Indian workers left Jeddah for New Delhi on Thursday by a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight.

“Once they arrive, respective state governments will be making arrangements for their travel to their home towns,” he added.

The workers, who were brought to the airport in a bus by the Indian consulate in Jeddah, were seen off by Consul General Noor Rahman Sheikh, and senior officials Anand Kumar and M. Fahmi.

Many of the workers, including Hindus, at the airport on Thursday morning were seen carrying the holy waters of Zamzam in bottles for friends and relatives back home. The Saudi Labour Ministry had announced free passage for workers who were willing to return home.

Though Indian consulate officials have assured the workers that they will pursue financial claims on their behalf, most appeared confused and apprehensive about what lay ahead — including the onward journey to their states from New Delhi.

“It is saddening to leave Saudi Arabia as I made some money earlier; but now the chances are grim,” said Ram Nivas, a plumber from Churu district in Rajasthan.

“Due to non-payment of wages, there was no meaning in continuing the job,” said Nasir Raza of Gaya district in Bihar, who had returned to Saudi Arabia only recently after a vacation, is now leaving for good.

“I have full faith in both the governments of Saudi Arabia and India and I have authorised them to collect my pending arrears and send them to me in India,” said Musharaf Ali, a driver hailing from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh who has been here for eight years.

“I had heart surgery and the huge expenses were borne by the now ill-fated company. I had enjoyed working there. Though there was the option to seek new employment, I prefer to return home,” said Shakir Ahmed, a resident of Patna in Bihar.

“When I arrived three years ago I felt so happy to be part of such a large company, but the situation worsened and it is sad to return home. I love the country,” said V. Ram Prasad of Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.

The lists of workers who are being repatriated at their request are being prepared by Indian diplomats in coordination with Saudi Labour Ministry officials. Many Indian workers are opting to return home, according to sources.

Middle East

Loud explosion heard outside busy hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu

Explosion hits busy road outside popular hotel in central Mogadishu.



Somalia Car Bombing

MOGADISHU: 16 people killed and 20 injured in a bomb attack at the entrance of  Wehliye hotel in Mogadishu. Most of the casualties are auto rickshaw drivers and passengers, according to witnesses.

The death toll is expected to rise.

The attacked was claimed by al-Shabab, Reuters news agency reported, citing the armed group’s military operation spokesman.

Al-Shabab, which is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s internationally recognised government, is frequently carrying out attacks in and around the capital.

More to follow.

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Middle East

Arab Parliament calls for ceasefire in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta

The international community to shoulder its responsibilities and to take “urgent, effective and serious steps” on the ground for the protection of Syrian civilians from the daily bombardment, explosives and poisonous gases.



Eastern Ghouta

Cairo, March 17 (IANS/WAM) Arab Parliament President Meshal Al-Selmi has called for an immediate halt to the continued bombing in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus and in the rest of Syria.

In an urgent cable sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday, Al-Selmi said that the bombing of the city led to the killing and wounding of hundreds of civilians, mostly women and children.

He said that the siege led to the worsening of conditions, leading to more victims due to the lack of food and medicine available to residents.

Al-Selmi said that the daily bombing of civilian populated areas was a “heinous” crime against humanity and ran counter to the rules of the international humanitarian laws and conventions.

He went on to say that the shelling was “unjustified” and amounted to war crimes, calling on the international community to immediately intervene to stop these crimes from continuing.

The Arab Parliament President urged the international community to shoulder its responsibilities and to take “urgent, effective and serious steps” on the ground for the protection of Syrian civilians from the daily bombardment, explosives and poisonous gases.

He renewed his call to the UN Security Council to implement an immediate ceasefire across Syrian territories and the withdrawal of armed forces of all countries interfering in Syrian domestic affairs.

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Middle East

De Mistura renews UN appeal for Syrian truce



Staffan de Mistura

Geneva, March 2 : The United Nations special envoy to Syria said on Thursday that the world body has and will not give up urging the implementation of its resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire in the war-ravaged country.

“We will continue asking until we are red in the face, blue in the face, for both sides… to stop shelling each other’s areas and for convoys to be allowed to get to Eastern Ghouta in particular,” de Mistura told reporters in Geneva on Thursday.

“Otherwise this (Eastern Ghouta) becomes a copy of Aleppo,” de Mistura said, referring to the northern Syrian city that became a major flashpoint in the country’s eight-year civil war.

Civilians have been evacuated from the besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area outside Damascus for the first time since daily “humanitarian pauses” began on Tuesday, according to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

More than 580 people have been killed in Eastern Ghouta since the Syrian government and its allies intensified their bombardments on February 18, according to doctors.

The 393,000 civilians trapped in the enclave, the last major rebel stronghold near the capital Damascus, also face severe shortages of food and medical supplies.

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Saturday calling for a 30-day countrywide cease-fire, but it has not come into effect.

The resolution set no firm date for the truce to take effect.

It also excluded attacks on opposition forces identified as terrorists, who make up some of the estimated 580 opposition fighters entrenched in eastern Ghouta.

On Monday, UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, demanded that the ceasefire be brought into effect immediately.

“Eastern Ghouta cannot wait. It’s high time to stop this hell on earth,” Guterres said at the opening of a session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

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