As many as 2,500 workers from India among which 500 are from Mangaluru are stranded in Saudi Arabia. They were visiting the country on a temporary visa through a company named Expertise Contracting Co Ltd, an Indo-Saudi joint venture engaged in plant maintenance and turnaround business in oil, gas and petrochemical field in Saudi Arabia.
The company had employed over 8,000 workers from different corners of the world and the majority of them being from India. The nature of the business was such that they hired workers on short term visiting visas and demobilize them by April as the business grows dull after summer sets in April.
The disruption of flights caused due to the global outbreak of COVID-19 has made it difficult for Saudi Arabia to demobilize workers who are on visiting visa.
The Indian workers are now expecting to visit India on emergency grounds such as medical assistance for protracted illnesses like diabetes and hypertension, and to attend ailing parents.
The company has sought permission of the Saudi government to send Indian workers in a chartered flight, which the government has approved. The company has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, chief minister of Karnataka B S Yediyurappa, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to seek the permission of Indian government to land the chartered flight carrying these workers. The company is currently waiting for consent from the Indian government.
The company is also ready to undertake all the necessary preventive measures required for allowing the stranded Indian workers to return. This would involve conducting COVID-19 tests of the workers and furnishing negative report certificates. However, the certificate is generated not earlier than 48 hours before the date of boarding.
The company also agreed to take steps to quarantine these workers in India as per Indian government norms in areas that shall be identified beforehand. The Saudi company also agreed to bear the necessary expenses.