Saudi construction firm abandons nearly 100 workers in the desert

The men said they had been left in their remote desert camp for the last two months with no food, water and other basic necessities

A Saudi construction company has reportedly abandoned nearly 100 expatriate workers in the kingdom’s central desert after not paying their salaries for months.

Saudi Gazette reports that the 96 men from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Yemen claimed to have been abandoned in their remote desert camp for the last two months with no food, water and other basic necessities.

They said they were tasked with building a road in Adobiya village in Baagha, nearly 310km from the provincial capital Hail, and had not been paid for seven months.

Some workers left after the company’s financial situation did not improve and about 60 remain, according to the publication.

“It is an impossible task for us to move out of this remote desert place as there is no means of transport available. How we can go anywhere to complain,” Indian worker Harihar was quoted as saying.

Hail community worker Sarfuddin Thayyil, who visited the workers on Saturday, said the men wished to return to their home countries by making use of the current amnesty period as their residency permits had expired.

Read: At least 1 million expats expected to leave Saudi under amnesty campaign

He said the workers had not been able to contact their employer for more than three months, according to the publication.

They are currently receiving food and assistance from an OICC team in Hail.

A slowdown in the kingdom’s construction sector and delays to government payments have seen thousands of workers go without pay for months, with many seeking to open disputes in the courts.

Some employers have gone to extreme lengths to avoid having to pay workers their dues.

In an incident March, a group of staff for a maintenance and cleaning firm in the Eastern Province were reportedly dumped in the desert to prevent them from attending a labour court hearing.

Read: Saudi employer dumps workers in the desert to prevent court hearing