India’s Gulf workers in Covid-19 reverse migration chaos

India’s Gulf workers in Covid-19 reverse migration chaos
Migrant workers from India have helped build Gulf economies, but many have fallen victim to the Covid-19 crisis.
2 min read
31 March, 2021
Migrant workers protest to be returned to Saudi Arabia [file photo-Getty]

This comes after Saudi and UAE mass deportations of migrant workers last year as part of controversial plans to curtail the spread of the virus.

While not a Gulf state, Jordan also pressured expats to leave the kingdom, temporarily waiving all exit fines in a bid to prioritise jobs for its own nationals.

The Indian state of Kerala has been hit particularly hard by these initiatives, given that it sends more workers - 2.5 million - to the Gulf than any other country, 40 percent of the total.

Figures show that over 1.1 million Gulf workers have returned home over the past 10 months.

Of these, 7 in 10 had been made unemployed from the construction, hospitality, and domestic service industries.

The toll on workers and their families has been catastrophic.

Shamna Khan, a disabled 30-year-old woman, previously did not have to work.

Her husband supported her with his relatively well-paid job in a Qatari shopping mall.

When he was laid off a year ago, however, Shamna had to take a government-backed position doing manual labour for 300 rupees per day.

"I am happy to work as I can support my family, but my leg is prone to infections," she told Reuters.

These accounts highlight the often-hidden plight of migrant workers across the Middle East, a crisis which coronavirus has significantly exacerbated.

When the pandemic hit, groups like Amnesty International revealed the shocking conditions labourers were quarantined in.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay connected