Staff Reporter

Thiruvananthapuram: The local chapter of the Board of Airline Representatives (BAR) has expressed concern over the imbroglio in obtaining emigration clearance for job-seekers proceeding to the countries in West Asia for employment.

A meeting of the BAR held here on Tuesday under the chairmanship of H.A. Munaff, Air India Manager, Thiruvananthapuram, noted that passenger loads on flights operating from West Asia from the three airports in Kerala had dropped significantly.

The representatives pointed out that most of the airlines, including the national carriers Air India and Indian, experienced a 40 per cent decline in passenger load on flights to West Asia.

The sharp fall in the passenger load came in the wake of tightening of emigration laws following the raids by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the offices of over a dozen recruiting agencies in the capital city. The raids were conducted following the unearthing of emigration clearance after tampering visa and other documents.

It was pointed out that thousands of job-seekers with employment visas have not obtained emigration clearance due to the stringent rules introduced since the first week of June. The airline managers also noted that visas of many job-seekers, especially those in the unskilled category, had expired.

The BAR has said the poor passenger load would make a serious dent in the revenue of all the operating airlines and result in cancellation of flights to the three airports of the State. Meanwhile, the Kerala Association of Travel Agents has also expressed concern over the huge backlog in emigration clearance and crisis being faced by the travel trade.

In a memorandum submitted to Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, association president K.V. Muraleedharan said tens of thousands of visas were being returned to the Gulf countries for renewal in the wake of the crisis created by the tightening of rules.

The hurdles in emigration clearance will force sponsors in the Gulf to look elsewhere for recruitment, the association president said.