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20,000 Indians to return from Saudi Arabia via amnesty scheme


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Around 1,500 blue collar workers from Tamil Nadu are among those who are using the amnesty to come back to the country.

CHENNAI: Thousands of Indian workers stranded in Saudi Arabia after travelling there illegally and those who overstayed their visas, including a large number from Tamil Nadu, are ready to return to India under a 90 day amnesty period that the kingdom's government has offered them.

Speaking to TOI by telephone from Riyadh on Tuesday, Anil Nautiyal, counsellor (community welfare) at the Indian embassy, said 20,321 Indian nationals had applied till Monday evening to return home under the amnesty scheme.

Around 1,500 blue collar workers from Tamil Nadu are among those who are using the amnesty to come back to the country. Most of the other workers who are availing of the scheme are from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Nautiyal said the Saudi Arabian government had set up an exclusive centre in Riyadh for Indian nationals who want to exit the country.The Indian embassy had appealed to all Indians staying in Saudi Arabia illegally to take advantage of the amnesty that, unlike a similar offer in 2013 that was restricted to Riyadh and Jeddah, is available in 21 locations across the kingdom, he said.

"The majority of applications we received were from blue collar workers wanting to return to India," Nautiyal said. "The numbers are fewer than during the 2013 amnesty period but many families who overstayed now want to use the scheme to return."

"Volunteers are assisting embassy officials through the entire process," he said. "We have put up tents in the embassy and consulate for the Indians who have applied to fly back to India."

Most applicants expressed relief at being able to return home.

"I have been through hell in the last four years, working for four different sponsors, most of whom did not pay me," said P Murugavel a native of Kallakurichi taluk in Villupuram district, who is now returning home.

"The working and living conditions were harsh. I am thankful for the amnesty offer and that I am returning home even though I'm empty-handed and do not know what the future holds for me."

Nautiyal said Saudi officials are giving out passes (one-way travel documents the authorities issue to Indian nationals to travel back home in the absence of passports) and exit visas free of charge to applicants. While they are facilitating the exit process, the applicants have to pay the flight cost.

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