THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state may witness an exodus of Malayalis from Saudi Arabia in view of the 90-day amnesty scheme from March 29 announced by the Saudi authorities. According to Malayali associations, over a lakh Malayalis might be staying in Saudi Arabia without proper documents. It may be recalled that about 20,000 Malayalis had to leave Saudi Arabia in 2013 after the Nitaqat - a Saudization drive. Meanwhile, additional chief secretary Sheela Thomas, who is heading the Non-Resident Keralites Affairs department said that the state would act in case there was any exodus of Malayalis. "So far we have no official information of any chances of exodus owing to the amnesty. In case of any crisis situation, we would do the needful," she said.
NORKA Roots chief executive officer K.N. Raghavan could not be reached to know about any proactive initiates being taken by the agency to face any mass exodus. With the news of the amnesty coming out, the Malayali associations in Saudi are planning to urge those illegally staying there to avail of the scheme. "We are awaiting a copy of the amnesty circular so that we can persuade the Malayalis staying without proper documents to make use of the facility. According to reports, those seeking the amnesty scheme would have no legal bars in returning to the country through proper channel," Mr Mathew Thomas Nelluvelil, president, Saudi-based Malayali Association for Social Service, told DC over phone.
Mr. Nelluvelil also said that many may hesitate to leave as their employers owe them huge salary dues. "Many who are working without Iqama (work permit) would be expecting huge salary dues from their employers. Since they are working illegally they could not claim the dues through legal channels. Hence such persons would prefer to stay back illegally with the hope of getting the dues," said Mr. Nelluvelil. He also said that though the central and state governments had earlier offered travel assistance to those forced to leave Saudi Arabia following Nitaqat, only a few could avail of the benefit owing to the cumbersome conditions and procedures involved.