South Asian Insider
Unable To Pay For Covid Test, Woman In Saudi Says Denied Flight To India
Reena Gehlodh, hailing from Harda district in Madhya Pradesh, had appealed for help in a video message in November, following which the Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia had intervened and made arrangements for her return. (Insider Bureau)-A 40-year-old woman, who was set to fly back to India after allegedly being held hostage by her employer in Saudi Arabia, has claimed that she was not allowed to board the flight as she could not pay the money for the mandatory coronavirus test. Reena Gehlodh, hailing from Harda district in Madhya Pradesh, had appealed for help in a video message in November, following which the Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia had intervened and made arrangements for her return. In two audio messages, the woman, who is currently staying in a recruitment shelter in Al-Qassim in Saudi Arabia, has claimed that she was taken for a coronavirus test on Monday evening by the shelter personnel who demanded 850 Riyal (around ? 17, 000) for the test before her departure on January 5. The Congress' Bundi district vice president, Charmesh Sharma, said the woman had sent the messages to him as he had earlier approached authorities to seek help for her following her appeal. "On Monday evening, at around 6 o'clock, I was taken to a COVID test centre where I was asked to pay 850 Riyal for the COVID test before departure by flight," Ms Reena says in the messages. "When I expressed inability to pay the COVID test charges, I was informed that my departure for home in India would not be possible and that I would have to work for a month more to raise the money for the COVID test," she further said. The woman has been in staying in Saudi Arabia for 11 months on a work visa. On November 15- 16 last year, she had posted a video online in which she alleged that she had been held captive and harassed by her employer. Charmesh Sharma, who claimed he has so far facilitated the release of 39 Indian workers held hostage in Iraq, said he filed online complaints in the matter to the Prime Minister's Office, the Ministry of External Affairs and the Embassy in Saudi Arabia on November 19. "The MoE responded immediately to the complaint and subsequently the embassy on November 24 asked me to submit her travel and visa documents," Mr Sharma said.On December 16, the embassy had informed Mr Sharma of her scheduled to return to India on January 5. "However, now her hopes of reuniting with her husband and daughter are dashed," Mr Sharma said, and urged Indian authorities to intervene and ensure her return. Ms Reena is currently working in the shelter where she has been staying.
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