India today started verification and issuance of Emergency Certificates allowing its citizens to leave Saudi Arabia following concerns over a new labour policy in the Gulf Kingdom.
The schedule currently announced is for the delivery of the first batch of 12,000 Emergency Certificate applications received at Indian Embassy in Riyadh and nearly 3,000 in Saudi's Eastern Province.
The schedule for verification and delivery of subsequent batches for all Indian nationals who have applied at other collection centres in Saudi Arabia will be announced soon, the Indian embassy in Riyadh said in a statement.
There has been a rush for the emergency travel documents with about 60,000 applicants looking for one, amid concerns about possible job losses after the new 'Nitaqat' labour law comes into effect.
The 'Nitaqat' law makes it mandatory for local companies to hire one Saudi national for every 10 migrant workers.
There has been widespread perception that the new policy will lead to denial of job opportunities for a large number of Indians working there. Over two million Indians are currently working in Saudi Arabia.
"The embassy would like to reiterate that anyone who obtains ECs from the Embassy will have their current passports cancelled. They would not be able to travel out of India on such passports," the statement read.
The embassy said that a large number of Indians who obtained emergency certificates from the Embassy during 2010 and 2011 could not return to India on their basis.
"The embassy of India in Riyadh and the Consulate in Jeddah would revalidate their unutilised ECs issued during 2010 and 2011 for a period of three months as an exceptional measure to facilitate their departure to India utilising the concessions announced by Saudi authorities. The immigration authorities in India have also been sensitised appropriately to ensure smooth entry of the revalidated EC holders to India," the statement said.
Meanwhile, The embassy in Riyadh and Consulate in Jeddah will continue to collect EC applications directly and also through various collection centres throughout Saudi Arabia.
More than 200,000 foreigners have been deported from the country over the past few months as part of labour market reforms aimed at putting more Saudi nationals into private sector jobs, where they now make up only a tenth of the workforce.