Thiruvananthapuram: The State government has geared up its machinery to meet the expected rush of 'homecoming' expatriates from Saudi Arabia in the wake of the kingdom's new labour policy envisaging strengthening localisation of jobs.
"Homecoming is a reality and we cannot show any laxity on the issue," state Minister for Non-Resident Keralities Affairs K C Joseph told PTI here Friday.
He said Saudi Arabia, as per information received by the government, was not willing to extend the cut-off date, that ended last Wednesday, for the expatriates to leave it in the wake of implementation of new labour policy "Nitaqat".
He pointed out that the state government had already taken up the matter with Centre and sought its intervention to see that Saudi Arabia 'take a liberal approach and give some time' for the expatriates, mostly unskilled workers.
Joseph said the state government was working out a rehabilitation package for the expatriates returning from Saudi Arabia, adding the Cabinet at its next meeting on Wednesday would take up this issue seriously.
Answering a question, he said government did not have exact count of expatriates who could become the targets for deportation under the new law which mandates reserving 10 per cent of jobs even in small and medium business establishments for Saudi nationals.
As an immediate step, the government plans to conduct a survey of expatriates with the help of local bodies, he added.
The state government would also take up with Air India the possibility of providing concessional rate tickets to those who want to return, he said.
The Minister hoped that Saudi Arabia would not take a tough stand on the matter as 'exodus of large number of workers in the lower stratum would affect the functioning of small business houses and shops.
Another important matter the Centre had to take up was that the persons who would have to leave that country should not be treated as 'criminals' as such a stamp on their passports would prevent them from seeking jobs in any Gulf countries.
However, he said the NGOs and other organisations in Saudi Arabia had informed the state government that 'situation is not alarming' as projected.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday sought the Centre's intervention to see that Saudi Arabia took a liberal approach on the implementation of its new labour policy.
Around 5.7 lakh Keralites are working in Saudi Arabia as per a 2011 estimate.