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Covid-19: Reverse migration, repatriation go side by side

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Dubai
dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com Filed on September 20, 2020 | Last updated on September 20, 2020 at 07.33 am

(KT file photo)

Donors from across the sub-continent are providing food to the needy households and paying for their repatriation costs.

Even though the number of workers opting for repatriation to their home countries amid the pandemic have substantially reduced, individual donors, companies, and community groups continue to support distressed persons.

Donors from across the sub-continent are providing food to the needy households and paying for their repatriation costs.

A majority of these distressed people are flying home to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, according to diplomats and social groups.

Covid-19: Reverse migration, repatriation go side by side (KT25959920.PNG)

'A healthy sign'

Neeraj Agarwal, Consul, press, information, and culture at the Consulate General of India in Dubai, said that from Dubai and the Northern Emirates, a total of 368,000 Indians have been repatriated to India.

"Most of the seriously distressed people left in the months of May, June, and July. The profile of passengers travelling now is very different from the ones who went initially. Only five to ten per cent of the travellers are serious distress cases," said Agarwal.

According to the diplomat, roughly 3,000 to 3,300 passengers travel from Dubai to India every day. "Interestingly, 3,500 to 4,000 people are coming back from India every day as well. As per the primary data we have received from various airlines, many of the passengers were ones who had registered in our database," he explained.

He said the Consulate had conducted a survey on one such flight, where it was found that two-thirds of the returning passengers were registered on the Consulate website. "Reverse migration has begun, and it's a healthy sign of the economy opening up. The aviation sector is picking up and people are finding opportunities here in the UAE," added Agarwal.

'Panic has subsided'

Vishwa Thilakarathna, Sri Lankan Welfare Association, Sahana, said the group has provided shelter and other essentials to 150 distressed Sri Lankans. "Sahana has helped 20 pregnant women and 50 families. I can say that the number of severely distressed cases has come down as many have found job opportunities here in the UAE," said Thilakarathna. He added: "In the beginning, there was a lot of panic among people. that has definitely subsided."

TN Krishnakumar, a sales and marketing coordinator and member of the All Kerala Colleges Alumni Federation (Akcaf) volunteer group, said on September 5, as many as 25 workers were repatriated to Chennai with the support of Lion's Club International group. "We provided this batch of blue-collar workers 25 tickets. We are planning at least 100-120 free flight tickets to be distributed to needy persons."

Advocate Ibrahim Khaleel, secretary and legal centre chairman of the Dubai chapter of Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC), an organisation that spearheaded the repatriation efforts to India, said the distress cases have seen a drastic dip. "People are booking directly with the airline. We are still supplying food kits to those in need. Just yesterday, we gave a group of needy persons in Bur Dubai 40-50 food kits," said Khaleel. He added: "In all, the KMCC Dubai Chapter has helped repatriate 7,000 people. Today, we are focusing on webinars to raise safety awareness among people."

'Take Me Home'

Private companies, such as the multinational conglomerate General Electric's (GE) CSR division GE Volunteers, launched the 'GE Take Me Home' campaign which has carried out the repatriation of nearly 80 workers, both men and women, stranded in the UAE.

Swati Mehta, leader of GE Volunteers, said: "The initiative has supported workers from over 20 cities across Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India. Some had been in the UAE for just a few months, while others had lived here for more than 40 years, when the pandemic struck and left them without options."

She explained: "We could have backed individuals by providing them food or helped with other necessities while they remained here. But that would mean they would have remained dependent and failed to start rebuilding their lives. We wanted to help them restart their lives back home."

The volunteers play various roles, including sponsoring the cost of individual worker repatriation flight tickets, or speaking to candidates on the phone or in person to confirm their need and help coordinate their flight home. The organisation has done this in partnership with SmartLife, UAE Relief Initiative, and Sahem Volunteers.

dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com

author

Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88


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