Indian passport problem in Saudi Arabia resolved

Dubai, May 22 (IANS) The problem of Saudi Arabian immigration authorities not accepting newly designed Indian passports has been resolved, according to the Indian embassy in Riyadh.

India’s Ambassador Hamid Ali Rao raised the issue during a meeting with Saudi Deputy Minister of Interior Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al-Salem Tuesday and the matter was clarified, local media reported Wednesday

“Some cases were reported in Jeddah where perhaps immigration authorities were not aware of the new format of the passport but it was resolved,” the Arab News quoted Sibi George, India’s deputy chief of mission in Riyadh, as saying.

“The issue has been clarified and the matter has been resolved.”

Stating that there is no need to be concerned over this, he said: “The Saudi side has acknowledged the matter and they are working to help Indian workers on all cases, including on the matter of the refusal of the passports.”

After Indian expatriates submitted their old passports, the Saudi authorities refused to transfer data from the old passports to the new ones, saying they were unaware of the change in design.

While the old passport had the holder’s photograph on the second page, the new one has it on the third page.

Even after the Indians obtained a letter from the Jeddah consulate confirming the validity of the new passport, the Saudis refused to relent, saying that the validity of the new passport should come from that Gulf nation’s foreign ministry.

Indian workers have been thronging the Indian embassy in Riyadh and the consulate in Jeddah ever since a new labour policy was implemented in that country.

The Nitaqat or Saudisation policy makes it mandatory for all Saudi companies to reserve 10 percent of jobs for Saudi nationals.

The Indian missions in that country earlier appealed to all affected Indian workers to either rectify their residency status or leave the country.

Affected workers have been trying to take advantage of a grace period announced by the Saudi authorities that is currently under way and will end July 3.

There are around two million expatriate Indians in Saudi Arabia, many of them blue collar workers.

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