Saudi Arabia to send back Indian prisoners in humanitarian move

Riyadh, March 5: In a signficant humanitarian gesture following the visit of the Saudi crown prince to India last week, hundreds of Indian prisoners in Saudi jails may be transferred to India if they are so willing.

Steps are being taken to transfer Indian prisoners from jails in Saudi Arabia to Indian prisons, according to a joint communique issued at the end of the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to India Feb 26-28.

“The Saudi side told the Indian side that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has made the necessary steps to transfer a number of sentenced Indian prisoners in accordance with the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons involving deprivation of liberty signed between the two countries in 2010 in Riyadh,” the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) quoted the communique as stating.

The decision will not apply to prisoners serving death sentences. Those who do not want to go and want to serve their sentences in the kingdom will not be forced to return, officials stated.

The prisoner transfer move is a first for Saudi Arabia and underlines the growing trust and cooperation between the two countries in a wide spectrum of areas, the officials said.

The Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons was signed during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Saudi Arabia in 2010 during which the historic Riyadh Declaration was signed

Saudi Arabia is home to around 2.8 million Indians, a large number of them working as blue collar workers.

India’s Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi had stated in the Rajya Sabha, or the upper house of the Indian parliament, last month that, of the 3,497 Indian prisoners lodged in jails in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, the maximum number of 1,400 are in Saudi Arabia.

Of these, 568 prisoners are lodged in jails in the Red Sea coast city of Jeddah.

Apart from Saudi Arabia, there are 1,025 Indian prisoners in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), around 250 in Kuwait, 106 in Oman, 76 in Bahrain and 72 in Qatar.