Significant drop in expat returns likely

While the Vande Bharat Mission flights from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Kerala are arriving full even in the ongoing Phase V, the load in the return flights hovering around 10% is an indicator of the changing migration pattern and the challenges awaiting the State.

Since the pandemic-induced lockdown began, 2,54,226 non-resident Keralites (NoRKs) have returned through the four international airports of the State through the Vande Bharat mission’s repatriation flights and the chartered flights that operated till July 29.

The UAE tops the list with 1,23,731 people returning from the seven emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al Quwain. Saudi Arabia is second with 38,468 returnees. The registration of returnees with the Department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs (NoRKA) through the website that began in April has touched 5.5 lakh and is still continuing.

The response to the repatriation flights of Air India Express, tasked to fly the returnees from West Asia to 16 airports in the country in the Phase V till August 15, and to the flights of the West Asia-based foreign carriers shows the steady flow of the returnees. Those who have landed fall in the distressed category, including those who have lost jobs owing to the pandemic-induced economic crisis, says Harikrishnan Namboorthiri K., Chief Executive Officer, NORKA ROOTS.

Official sources told The Hindu that the expatriates’ return would come down significantly in the coming days and this was reflected in the requests reaching the State for operating the chartered flights dropping by the day.

The spurt in the COVID-19 cases daily in Kerala; control over the epidemic in countries such as Saudi Arabia; restrictions being lifted in various nations around the world; and no guarantee of jobs for the returnees in the homeland are cited as the main reasons for the assumption that the return of expatriates will reduce.

300 flyers

While the budget carrier Air India Express claim their flights from West Asia are full, the 428-seater Boeing 777-ER of Emirates that reached the Thiruvanathapuram internatonal airport on Monday had only 300 flyers.

On the return flights of Air India Express to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah, the load is hovering around 10% to 20%. Foreign carriers say the load will pick up in the coming days. Air India Express and foreign carriers have been given the nod to fly to the UAE those having valid United Arab Emirate’s Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) entry permit and resident visa.

Many employees holding family visa had sent their families home as asked by the employers; others had opted for unpaid leave and were awaiting employers’ call; and those going on tourist visa for job hunting had stopped flying.

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Printable version | Sep 30, 2020 8:20:30 PM |

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