In the 13 months since the onset of Covid-19, nearly 15 lakh people flew in from across the world to Kerala with 10.45 lakh of them stating loss of job as the reason for their return, a government data revealed.
A data by Airports Authority of India on international traffic from four international airports in Kerala stated that 27 lakh international passengers have flown out of Kerala in 12 months since May 2020, while a data compiled by the Department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs (NORKA) says 14,63,176 people returned in this period. Of them, 10,45,288 or over 70 percent reported having lost their jobs abroad.
8.40 lakh expats returned between early-May and December 31 of 2020, the figure nearly doubled in the next less than six months, settling at 14.63 lakh by June 18 reported The Indian Express. Expatriates from four West Asian nations the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman accounted for 96 per cent of returnees, with 8.67 lakh people from UAE alone.
As many as 27.20 lakh passengers flew from the state’s four international airports namely Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Kannur between May 2020 and April this year, AAI figures showed.
Apart from loss of job, another 2.90 lakh gave visa expiry or other reasons for their return, while the remaining returnees are children, senior citizens or pregnant women, according to NORKA data.
However, there is no data on how many of these expats have migrated back, or returned to their overseas destinations.
Deliberating on the issue, Ajith Kolassery, the recruitment manager at NORKA said that as there is no data to ascertain how many of those returnees have gone back overseas in the last one year, it is a presumption that a major chunk of those who returned (to Kerala) in the wake of Covid-19 have returned.
Kolassery further stated that there is a possibility that out of 27 lakh outbound international passengers, a large number would be transit passengers those who got stranded in Kerala, or visitors or frequent business travellers. But even after setting apart a few lakhs for these types of passengers there is a good number of expatriates who came back in the wake of Covid-19 and have now
returned. In any normal year, Kerala has 5 to 6 lakh fresh cases of overseas migration. That would have happened as usual last year also,” he said.
It has also come to the fore that although 10.45 lakh claimed to have lost their job, only about 1.70 lakh returnees have so far applied for the relief of Rs 5,000 each paid to returnees who had lost jobs abroad.
“I would say at least 5 lakh migrants would have gone back. Besides, more would fly back when travel restrictions abroad are lifted.” Prof S Irudaya Rajan, Chair Professor at Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs’ Research Unit on International Migration told The Indian Express.
Ar present, Prof S Irudaya Rajan has requested the state government to conduct a survey on returnees during the pandemic but estimates, the state is unlikely to see any sharp decline in remittance.