Challenges ahead for jobless Indian expats returning from the Gulf

More than eight lakh expats have returned to Kerala jobless or because of visa issues

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Data compiled by the Non-Resident Keralites Affairs (NoRKA), reveals that about 8.7 lakh expats have come back to Kerala, between May 2020 and January 2021. While at least more than five and a half lakh have lost their means of livelihood, more than two lakh have returned due to visa or permit-related issues.

However, data from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) reveals a different picture. It reveals that only about 3,500 complaints remain to be resolved at the Indian missions in the Gulf countries in 2020. This number has witnessed only a marginal increase after the pandemic, as compared to 2019. This means, most Indian expats who have lost their jobs or faced work-related issues have not registered a formal complaint with the respective Indian Missions in the Gulf nations.

The maximum number of employment disputes that remain pending in the last two years, have been recorded at the Indian Embassy in Kuwait. It has 1,602 pending labour disputes in 2020 compared to 1,576 in 2019. Saudi Arabia comes next in line, followed by Oman, Qatar and Bahrain.

Qatar witnessed the biggest increment in number of labour disputes, from 59 in 2019, to 392 cases in 2020. Saudi Arabia has only about 746 pending cases in 2020 compared to 780 in the previous year. In the UAE, however, there seem to be no pending labour disputes, even though the maximum number of expats from Kerala are employed there.

Maximum issues at the Indian missions pertain to non-payment of salaries or delay in payment of wages, violation of terms of contract, harassment by sponsors, passport confiscation, lack of benefits, and so on.

Meanwhile, in Oman, Indian expats impacted by the pandemic are being provided assistance in various forms. Within Oman, schools are being requested to not charge anything beyond the basic fee. For parents who are in a financially weak state concessions and fee exemptions have also been offered. Not only has the Oman government repatriated many who have been rendered jobless, but has made efforts to resettle them too.

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