Still a long way from home

COVID-19 International

The lockdown extension shatters hopes of the stranded Indian workers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, waiting to travel home.

Rahul Padman

Bengaluru, April 17, 2020

The dead body of a class 10 student, Jewel George of GEMS school in Sharjah who had succumbed to cancer was sent in a cargo flight to Kerala, with no one to accompany. 

The extension of lockdown to May 3 has deflated the spirits of the migrant workers stranded in the GCC countries, said the spokesperson of the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre. 

Many of the migrant workers were eagerly awaiting the lifting of the lockdown on April 14, to return home. Those who could not return to India before the lockdown, who toil as labourers at the lower rung of the employment ladder have lost jobs and are unable to support their living, even to pay for food and rent. 

Calls to repatriate these workers have been made at the Supreme Court by Pravasi Legal Cell and M K Raghavan, MP from Kozhikode constituency, but the apex Court has deferred response to the petitions filed for four weeks. 

Another writ petition is filed in the Kerala High Court, by Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) to bring back the Keralites aground in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The petition will be heard today.

With almost 80 lakh Indians living in the GCC, repatriating even a portion of them is no small feat and holds the risk of a new wave of infections in India considering that 87 of the initial cases were returnees from the GCC.

Shyju V, a native of Kerala, living in Karama, Dubai says, “There are many people with COVID-19 symptoms in the area. More than 60 people live in bed spaces in a three-bedroom-flat and most of them still go to work. There are no flights to go home”.

Considering the expensive accommodation in the GCC countries, the cramped living conditions opted by these workers owing to their meager earnings, in some cases consist of just a bed space. 

Amidst efforts to contain the rising level of COVID-19 cases, authorities in both the countries are stepping up measures to facilitate the return of workers, which include the resumption of flight operations by some airlines, testing of passengers before their departure and granting visa extension.

The Government of Kerala has again requested the Centre to take immediate measures to deal with the situation.


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