RIYADH: A frail, mentally disabled man and another worker suffering from advanced-stage tuberculosis are among over 500 Indian workers currently held in the Somaishi Deportation Center in Riyadh. Every Ramadan, the Saudi Arabian king offers clemency for nonviolent offenders of relatively minor crimes in accordance with the spirit the holy month. “A majority of the Indians currently lodged in the center’s two clogged and crowded halls are runaway workers or have been taken to the center by police or employers for petty crimes, not for committing any major offense,” said one inmate, who identified himself as Mohammed Ashraf.
Ashraf, while speaking from inside the deportation center, said the condition of one worker named Siyaram has gone from bad to worse.
“He has become mad and has lost his senses, while he looks very frail, pale and frenzied,” said Ashraf, adding that Siyaram has isolated himself in a corner of the deportation center’s dirty WC. “I am afraid that he may die if adequate medical aid is not given,” said Ashraf, who claims the man fell sick from ailments he contracted in the crowded center.
Deporting these men is a complicated process that involves the Indian Embassy working in tandem with Saudi immigration authorities to clear deportees for departure. This process includes verifying the identities of men and women who might not have IDs. Saudi authorities must also clear people of crimes before they can be deported. The result: a considerable backlog of languishing cases.
Asked about the efforts made by the Indian Embassy to ensure the deportation of the workers, V.K. Sharma, an embassy official, said that the mission had been sending two officials to the deportation center in Riyadh on a weekly basis to identify workers who need urgent help, travel documents and air tickets. “We try to help in whatever way possible to alleviate the sufferings of the detainees,” said Sharma. “The mission has also sent a request for clemency for Indian workers during the holy month of Ramadan.”
Siyaram had not been issued travel documents because he has no proof of his identity.
“Somehow, the embassy has managed to contact his son back home in India, and we are waiting for necessary information from his son to enable us to issue an out pass and facilitate his early departure,” added Sharma. He admitted that there are three or four such cases that need urgent attention.
“Another such case is that of Sheikh Saquib, 50, who is suffering from tuberculosis,” said Ashraf. He said that “advance stage tuberculosis, chronic gastritis and hypertension prevent Saquib also from eating and hence his condition is deteriorating day by day.”
Despite hospital reports showing that Saquib and Siyaram suffer from serious health conditions, they are being denied their right to be released to get better medical treatment, said R. Muraleedharan, chief of the Federation of Kerala Associations in Saudi Arabia (FOKASA), an NGO set up with a mission to help distressed Indians.
Ghazanfar Ali Khan | Arab News