Keralites availing amnesty in UAE to fly home for free

Anjana Sankar/Abu Dhabi
Filed on July 31, 2018 | Last updated on July 31, 2018 at 06.28 am
Keralites availing amnesty in UAE to fly home for free

Free train tickets or special vehicles will be allocated to pick people from the airport and drop them off.

Illegal UAE residents from Kerala who wish to avail of the upcoming visa amnesty to exit the country will be flown to India for free, the south Indian state's Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, announced on Monday.

"Those who wish to apply for it should get in touch with the nine (amnesty) centres that will be opened there (UAE). The state-run Roots-Norka will coordinate for their smooth return ... They will be brought home for free and safely. The first batch of arrivals will take place in the middle of August," said Vijayan.

Norka resident vice-chairman K. Varadarajan told Khaleej Times that the entity would provide free air tickets to Malayalees availing of the amnesty. "The air tickets are expensive during this season and we understand many people won't be able to afford it. So our first priority is to make sure that expats can return home safely.

"We do not have an estimate of the total number of people who would avail of the amnesty. Our rough estimate is that around Rs3 million (Dh160,600) would be needed for air tickets alone. We are allocating a special budget to sponsor the air tickets," said Varadarajan.

The official also said Norka would set up a counter at all the three major airports in Kerala - Nedumbassery International Airport in Cochin, Trivandrum International Airport and Calicut Airport - to receive the returnees.

"We will also make transportation arrangements to drop off people to their homes. Free train tickets or special vehicles will be allocated to pick people from the airport and drop them off."

According to a study published by the Centre for Development Studies in Kerala, 90 per cent of the state's 2.36 million diaspora are in various Middle East countries. The UAE accounts for 38.7 per cent of these expats, followed by Saudi Arabia with 25.2 per cent.

The official added that the state government would also look at "rehabilitation programmes" for the returnees.

"We are in talks with many rural development and cooperative banks to provide subsidised loans to support self-employment programmes to those returning to Kerala. Roots-Norka is currently running a slew of welfare programmes for Gulf returnees, and the schemes will be expanded to cover the new amnesty seekers as well," said Varadarajan.      

Norka is coordinating with the UAE-based community organisations to create a database of Malayalees who will opt to return home during the amnesty period. "I understand that people can either stay back and regularise their status or return home. Through volunteers based at the nine amnesty centres across the UAE, we are planning to collect a database of people who will return in order to plan their rehabilitation."

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