As thousands of laid-off Indian workers in Saudi Arabia were said to be without food, 87% of complaints received from Indian workers at Indian missions across nine countries were from six Gulf countries, with nearly half of those from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, according to government data.

55,119 complaints of ill-treatment and "exploitation" of Indian workers were received by Indian missions across nine countries over the last three years, according to data tabled in the LokSabha (lower house of Parliament) by Ministry of External Affairs on July 20, 2016.

Of 55,119 complaints in these nine nations, the India mission in Qatar received 13,624 complaints, followed by missions in Saudi Arabia (11,195), Kuwait (11,103) and Malaysia (6,346), the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) was told by the ministry of external affairs.

On July 30, 2016, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj acknowledged the hunger facing laid-off Indian workers in Saudi Arabia.

Swaraj promised, through a series of tweets, “that no Indian worker rendered unemployed in Saudi Arabia will go without food”.

The complaints received from Indian workers include “non-payment/delayed payment or underpayment of salaries, long working hours, inadequate living conditions, physical harassment, non-renewal of visa and labour card on time, refusal to pay for medical treatment, denial of leave and air-ticket to home town on completion of contract period, forcible custody of passport and visa and refusal of leave or exit/re-entry permits", the ministry said in its reply to the Parliament.

No specific complaint of sexual abuse were reported, the ministry added.

24% of Indians jailed aboard in Saudi prisons

Saudi Arabia has more Indians in prison than any other country: 1,697 of 7,213, according to another Lok Sabha reply on April 27, 2016.

Saudi Arabia is followed by United Arab Emirates (1,143). The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries—Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain—account for half of all Indians jailed abroad and 87% of mis-treatment complaints received from Indian workers.

The Indian mission in Saudi Arabia registered 1,676 complaints during the first half of 2016.

Source: LokSabha; *2016 figures upto June 2016.

Poor working conditions put an Indian living in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait at 10 times the risk of death compared to an Indian living in the US, IndiaSpend reported in August 2015.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman and Kuwait report between 65 and 78 deaths per 100,000 Indian workers.

An average of 69 Indians die every year in the six Gulf countries. The corresponding figure for the rest of the world is 26.5, almost 60% lower.

(Mallapur is an analyst with IndiaSpend.)

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