THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala is likely to witness a counter-migration soon, with 2.5 lakh to 3 lakh Malayalis returning home jobless from West Asia alone by September owing to the Covid-19, said migration expert S Irudaya Rajan.
“Covid-19 has affected the global economy. Though Gulf migrants have faced several crises, this is serious. The latest setback is going to cost the state dearly,” Rajan, a member of the high-level expert committee appointed by the state government to study the ramifications of the pandemic, told TNIE.
“It also depends on how the economies of the West Asian countries are going to recover post Covid-19,” he said. He felt an additional one lakh migrants, mostly from Kuwait, who don’t possess valid documents are set to return after the government there announced public pardon. “If Kuwait’s public pardon is successful, the remaining Gulf Cooperation Council countries may follow suit,” said Rajan, who is hopeful a majority of the migrants may return to West Asia after a year or two when the economy gets better.
“I expected foreign remittances to Kerala from West Asia to reach an all-time high of Rs 1 lakh crore. Now, it will stay put at its 2018 figure of Rs 85,000 crore,” Rajan said.
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Keralites had returned from the Gulf in large numbers during the Gulf War of 1990-91, the global recession of 2008 and after the enactment of Nitaqat Law (by Saudi Arabia in 2011 which mandated minimum 10% reservation for Saudi nationals in businesses in the private sector).
During the Gulf War, nearly 10 lakh Malayalis, mostly from Kuwait, returned to the state. Though counter-migration from the Gulf countries was lower during the recession, thousands of jobs were affected. And when the Nitaqat Law was implemented, the state government and various private firms rose to the occasion and many did not lose jobs.
‘Not anticipating counter migration’
Kerala has produced more than a dozen billionaires in West Asia, including Lulu group chairman Yusuff Ali M A who has an annual turnover of $7.4 billion and employs over 50,000 people across the world. A top official of Lulu Group from Abu Dhabi told TNIE that they were not anticipating counter-migration from the Gulf. “At present, everything is hypothetical.
When respective governments resume airline operations, there will be initial rush to India. But it will mostly comprise people who had come on visiting visa and got stranded here. Then, it will be those who wish to visit their aged parents back home and will return after a sabbatical and finally, it will be those who lost jobs after their visas were terminated,” the official said.