Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has directed Saudi authorities to take measures to resolve issues faced by 2,500 stranded Indian workers employed by contracting firm Saudi Oger, according to Labour and Social Development Minister Mufrej al-Haqabani

“What happened was an individual act by one company which did a mistake,” Local Arab News cited al-Haqabani as telling reporters after his talks with India’s state minister Vijay Kumar Singh, who is in Saudi Arabia to negotiate return of stranded workers back to India.

“We have agreed with Saudi Arabian Airlines to send back any Indian worker who wants to leave,” he said, adding that Saudi Arabia will appoint lawyers at its own expense to follow up on the workers’ financial claims in courts against their employer in order to ensure that the unpaid salaries and financial dues are fully settled.

The minister has also issued orders to allow transfer of sponsorship and renew the residence permits of Indian workers. Restrictions have also been eased on workers leaving the kingdom, according to the report.

The Indian minister said he had a productive interaction with Al-Haqabani to solve the problems of Indian workers. The Indian mission in Jeddah will make a list of financial claims and finalize formalities for the workers to leave, he added.

Some 700 out of total 2,500 workers might return to India, the Indian consul general Mohammed Noor Rahman Sheikh told Arab News. “This has to be finalised shortly,” he said, adding that they will leave only after their financial dues are settled.

Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar on 3 August reported that the Saudi Arabia’s government is also mulling plans to take over Saudi Oger, which is owned by the family of Lebanon’s former prime minister Saad Hariri and has struggled amid a downturn in government spending and payment delays.

The newspaper added that the buyer would take over all debts and financial obligations of Saudi Oger.

The decline in oil prices has severely impacted Saudi Arabia’s construction market. There were $4.5bn of awards in Saudi Arabia during the first half of this year, down 77 per cent on the $19.9bn awarded in the first half of 2015.

Many contractors in the kingdom have faced financial difficulties amid payment delays, which has resulted in the laying off of thousands of employees. Saudi Binladin Group has laid off approximately 70,000 of its 200,000 workers, with local media suggesting Oger has let go up to 30,000 employees.