Kuwait’s government gave time till April 30 for the evacuation of immigrants staying on expired visas, but Indians can return only after lockdown is lifted.
Adilin Beatrice C
Indian nationals stranded in Kuwait feel dejected as, they claim, the Indian government has taken no step so far to bring them back. Most of the migrants have lost their jobs and fear that they may contract Covid-19.
Vignesh Babu, a mechanical engineer from Tamil Nadu who is living in Kuwait, lost his job 15 days ago as his company is facing economic turmoil. “It is not just me; around 30% of the migrant employees in my company lost their jobs and are stranded in the country. Most of the industrial areas in Kuwait are not functioning. A lot of employees lost their jobs, while others go to work on a 50%-employees-per-day basis,” he shared.
“Due to the Covid-19 scare, the company is allowing us to stay in a camp they arranged when we were on duty. I don’t know for how long I’ll be able to manage like this. I don’t have much money left to sustain a living and am jobless now. If the company asks me to get out of the camp, then I have nowhere to go and will run out of funds,” Babu added.
Indians complain that the Indian government is not using the exception time provided by the Kuwait government to take immigrants back.
Srinivasan M’s visa expired on March 28, 2020. He had booked his tickets to India on March 25, but before that, India announced the lockdown and he got stuck in Kuwait. “I completed my project in March and was waiting to get back to India. Due to Covid-19 and the sudden lockdown, my ticket got cancelled. The Kuwait government showed mercy on migrants whose visas had expired and asked us to go back to our respective countries by April-end. Indians were given five days, between April 11 and April 15, 2020, to return. So my company… booked a ticket for me on April 15 hoping that the lockdown in India would be lifted by then.” With the lockdown extended up to May 3, his wait to get home has been extended.
Rohit Sambhaji Danaware is keen to go back to his home in Satara, Maharashtra. “It is not like Kuwait is unsafe and India is safe. Still, I’m terrified to stay here as I’m not at home. If I contract the disease, no one is here to take care of me. At a critical time like this, everyone wants to be home and spend time with family. Most Indians in Kuwait have lost their jobs…. It is fine for now because we all are covered…, but once this gets over, we will be trapped, with the Kuwait government taking action against offenders. So it is better to go back when the government is giving exception,” he said.
The Kuwait government has pardoned migrant workers whose visas have expired and given time till April 30 for them to return to their countries without penalty. But Indian officials have in the past said an evacuation of Indian nationals in other countries will take place only in May.
This reporter tried to contact Indian officials, but couldn’t get in touch with them.
G Thirumarayan, a member of the Kuwait Tamil Sangam, said the situation will get worse if Indians are not taken back. “A lot of Indians find good income in Gulf countries. Even uneducated people find sources of income here. If countries like Kuwait and the UAE choose to put restrictions on migrant workers, then Indians will largely be affected. It is better to take the Indians back when the Kuwait government is being generous.”
India has sent a team of doctors and healthcare workers to Kuwait to help that country fight Covid-19. Following this, Indians in other Gulf countries have requested the government to send medical teams to help them.
A report says 3,336 Indian nationals living abroad have tested positive for Covid-19. Kuwait stands first with 785 Indians there contracting the disease, followed by Singapore and Qatar. India has so far avoided evacuating Indian nationals in other countries who have Covid-19. It has asked Indians nations abroad to stay put in their respective places until flights resume.
Feature Image credit – Aman Bharadwaj