A top researcher at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Kerala, a social science research institution, has predicted a 10 to 15 per cent return of emigrants from Gulf and the decline of remittances by about 15 per cent with the trends indicating the cycle of return migration has not ended.
“The migrant stocks in the Gulf will determine the remittances from the Gulf to India. Over the last four months during COVID-19, the stock of migrants in the Gulf has not declined because of non-availability of regular commercial flights. Once the travel between India and Gulf becomes normal, only then can we predict the extent of the return emigrants and their impact on remittances,” according to Professor Irudaya Rajan S, a senior faculty at CDS, Thiruvananthapuram.
The emigrants from the Gulf are left in the lurch upon their arrival. Unfortunately, there was no big package for rehabilitating return migrants by the Central Government, except for the Kerala government who announced the ‘Dream Kerala’ project for return emigrants, says Prof Rajan.
He has based this on his experiences of working and researching on the Gulf sector for over 20 years.
Prof Rajan told Observer that though some of them came back to India losing jobs, there are no jobs available for them back home due to the deteriorating economic situation here as well.
“Some of them came back in a hurry without collecting their salary, end of service benefits and other payments and are back with empty hands. Adding to this pain, the 14-day compulsory quarantine in institutions also led to mental stress after returning to India. My prediction is the flow of return emigrants will continue till December, explains Prof Rajan.
But in order to move towards an adequate policy, he says not all return emigrants did not return under the same circumstances.
He lists the three main types of return; normal return, return to remigration and distress return. Return migration he says is part of the Gulf migration.
For instance, prior to COVID-19, Kerala had an estimated 1.3 million returnees, which has been an increasing trend ever since we have been estimating this number since 1998.
He mentions about the large-scale return of migrants earlier as well on at least three occasions namely the 1991 Gulf war, global financial crisis of 2008 and during the Nitaqat policy drive in Saudi Arabia.
Prof Rajan mentions that their earlier research indicated at least one-third of the return emigrants likely to re-migrate to another country in the Gulf. A comprehensive rehabilitation policy is required for distress return emigrants who need both financial, administrative and policy support which is largely missing in most sending countries, including India.
The proposed survey on return migrants who returned through Vande Bharat flights will provide insights in the future of India-Gulf migration and is likely to be completed by year-end, concludes Prof Rajan.