LAHORE -  Services of Saeed Baig were terminated by Saudi Bin Ladin Group in May this year. He served the construction giant as AC technician for 20 years in Makkah and Madinah.

After receiving a total Rs700,000 as end-of-service benefits, he returned to his four-marla house in Sabzazaar, Lahore on August 29 where his daughter and a son were waiting for him to pay their university admission and tuition fee. His third daughter is studying in primary class.

“I’m much worried about my kids’ education. The money I deposited in the bank after paying universities’ fee of my daughter and son is not enough even to run our family’s daily expenditures for next eight months,” said the 52-year bearded man with tears in his eyes.

It was like a bombshell for him when the company said goodbye to him three months ago. He said he was not given even his due gratuity and last three months salary. He said he remained stranded in the camps in the holy city with other fellows for three months waiting for air ticket.

“It was really a hard time for me but after reaching home another herculean task is awaiting me. Now I leave home every day in search of job. Giving best days of my life to them (construction company) and living abroad two decades without my family, I received nothing from Saudis but tears,” he burst.

Baig was among thousands of Pakistanis who lost their jobs when the Bin Ladin Group terminated the services of about 77,000 foreign workers in May.

The company has been under pressure since September 2015, when it was suspended from receiving new state contracts after a crane toppled into Kaba during a dust storm, killing 107 people. But it was not only Bin Ladin, dozens of other Saudi companies also cut their jobs making thousands of Pakistanis stranded for months.

According to some media reports, over 8,000 Pakistani migrant workers employed by two Saudi companies, Saad Trading and Contraction Company in Al Khobar and the Saudi Oger Limited in Dammam also faced the same problems as the workers had neither been paid salary for months nor their end-of-service benefits. They remained stranded in the kingdom for months and on media reports the Pakistani government announced some compensation for their families.

But, Baig said the compensation had not reached his family.

“Yes, some families may have received Rs50,000 compensation but a large number of Pakistanis did not get any government money.”

After prime minister’s announcement for compensation, he had contacted the Madina office of Pakistani embassy and requested for help but did not get any response.

“Officials of Pakistani embassy never pay attention to the labourers’ problems. I have never seen them in my 20 year of job in KSA.”

Baig said the situation was so difficult that some Pakistanis were forced to sift food through garbage to survive. Besides the companies employees, the problems were also there for private workers who pay around Rs500,000 to Rs700,000 to travel agent mafia to get job in the kingdom.

“The Iqama (residence permit) fee has gone high from 1,500 Saudi Riyals to around 4,000 Riyals within a year. Your Saudi sponsor never pays heed to your problem after you reach there. He would demand almost double money when you need extension in permit fee,” he said.

According to him, thousands of Pakistanis are in jails who were arrested for living there without Iqama.

Saudi Arabia is the top international destination for Pakistani migrant workers with as many as 4.3 million working there. The kingdom is also the single largest source of remittances for the country with workers sending back $5.9 billion from July 2015-June 2016. According to the State Bank of Pakistan, remittances in June 2016 rose to $582.84 million, up from $536.68 million the year before.

Baig narrated the stories of his fellow workers who were terminated from jobs during last few months and now living hand to mouth. He appealed to the Overseas Commission and other concerned authorities to address the problems of the Pakistanis working in Gulf nations.

He also requested Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif for bearing the expenses of his kids’ education.