About 400 Pakistanis have been stranded for four months in Saudi Arabia’s Samishi camp after their companies stopped paying salaries, a returnee has said.
Mohammad Tanveer, speaking to Dawn News over the phone, narrated his experience of being stuck with around 400 Pakistanis in the camp, at times without food and water.
“There were around 400 of us and we helped out each other whenever we could. We were then shifted to a small wooden room that was fit enough for three people but we had to accommodate eight and at times 10 people because we had no place to go,” Tanveer said.
According to Tanveer, six months ago he and his colleagues were informed that the company they worked for was halting construction work.
He said initially it seemed the issue would be resolved but they did not get any salary even after two months, Dawn News reported on Tuesday.
Moreover, when he informed about the issue to the Pakistani embassy in Jeddah, the officials said no one had asked them to work in Saudi Arabia.
After approaching the Saudi company he worked for, their “Iqama or Muqeem card [identity card/ residence permit for expatriates] was also taken away. The police also said they couldn’t do anything.”
Mohammad Azhar Hussain Shah who is working with a construction group of the Bin Laden Group for the past three years, was also among the estimated 12,000 Pakistani labourers who were facing an uncertain future after their companies declared bankruptcy or going through a financial crunch.
Azhar said he was informed through a co-worker six months back that the company would stop paying the employees.
“I live in an average home in Jeddah. But right now, there’s no difference between me and those living in camps near Makkah and Jeddah. I haven’t sent a single penny home for the past six months although I was earning a decent salary of 4,000 riyals (up to Rs 100,000),” he said.
When the situation reached a point where people were going days without food in Dammam and Riyadh, the workers on July 22 organised a sit-in near their camps, to get the attention of the Saudi and Pakistani authorities.
Naveed Ahmad Khan, a worker who was also part of the demonstration, said the authorities asked them “not to make a nuisance”.
“It seemed like we are beggars. We were demanding our rights. My passport is still with the company. I can neither move out nor stay here. I’m in a fix,” Khan said.
All the workers denied receiving any help from the Pakistani embassy.
However, the Foreign Office spokesperson, Nafees Zakaria, said the embassy in Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam and Ta’if reached out to around 8,520 Pakistani workers.
“Unlike India, we have not been highlighting our efforts probably that’s why it’s easy to target us,” he said.
He said the embassy ensured there was medical facility, food for the workers and “the Saudi authorities cooperate with our workers”.
There are about 2.6 million Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia right now.