Thousands of laid-off Indian workers to be helped :agrees Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has agreed to assist thousands of Indian workers laid-off stranded in the kingdom without money or food, India's Minister of State for External Affairs, Vijay Kumar Singh, said on Wednesday.

A sharp drop in oil prices has forced cuts to state spending in Saudi Arabia, the world's top crude exporter. Construction firms have been squeezed financially and have laid off tens of thousands of South Asian and other foreign workers.

More than 6,200 of the stranded Indian workers were employed by construction firm Saudi Oger, a conglomerate owned by the family of former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, which has been unable to pay workers' salaries for months, according to Indian officials.

Singh, visiting Riyadh on Wednesday to meet Saudi Labour Minister Mufrej al-Haqbani, said the Saudi government had provided assurances that it would resolve the crisis and ensure workers' financial claims were pursued, even if the workers returned home.

"Things are not as bad as they have been shown and projected. Things are very fine. We are in constant touch with all the officials and the various departments of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," the minister said in joint remarks with Haqbani after their meeting.

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