Bhubaneswar– External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has directed the Indian embassy in Saudi Arabia to facilitate the return of 24 workers from India, including 12 from Odisha, who have been allegedly held captive by a company there on salary-related issues.

The action of the External Affairs ministry came after Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik sought her intervention for the safe return of the Odia labourers.

Sushma Swaraj asked the Indian embassy in Riyadh to inform the Chief Minister about the development in ensuring their repatriation.

“Embassy cognizant of it, vigorously pursuing with the Company and agent towards their repatriation; hope to send them soon,” the Indian embassy in Riyadh tweeted.

Earlier, the Chief Minister had tweeted, “Deeply concerned about Odia workers held captive in Saudi Arabia; Request @SushmaSwaraj ji @PMOIndia to intervene for their safe return.”

At least 12 labourers from various blocks of Ganjam district had been to Saudi Arabia five months ago through an agent from Andhra Pradesh to work in Al Riyadh Construction Company.

Sushma Swaraj (File photo: PTI)

Of the remaining workers, eight are from Andhra Pradesh and four from Tamil Nadu. They were taken to Saudi Arabia to work as plumbers. However, their passports were seized after two months of payment and they were allegedly exploited and given life threats.

Finding no help in the foreign land, the labourers sent WhatsApp videos narrating their ordeal to their family members. They sought the help of the government for their safe return to India.

In the meantime, the Ganjam district administration has launched a probe to gather information on the trapped labourers.

“We have collected information on 12 persons. As per reports, four are from Rangeilunda, three from Beguniapara and one each from Khallikote, Chhatrapur, Patrapur, Chikiti and Hinjilikatu,” said Shiv Narayan Sahu, District Labour Officer. (IANS)