7/29/2020 The South Asian-Gulf migrant crisis - The Hindu The South Asia-Gulf migration corridor is among the largest in the world. South Asians account for nearly 15 million in the Gulf. According to the World Bank, in 2019, total remittances to South Asia was about $140 billion, of which India received $83.1 billion, Pakistan received $22.5 billion, Bangladesh received $18.3 billion and Nepal $8.1 billion. The South Asian labour force forms the backbone of the Gulf economies, but has had to go knocking on doors for food and other basic necessities. The pandemic, the shutdown of companies, the tightening of borders, and the exploitative nature of the Kafala sponsorship system have all aggravated the miseries of South Asian migrant workers. They have no safety net, social security protection, welfare mechanisms, or labour rights. The events are reminiscent of the plight of migrant labourers who had been evacuated during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, as we found during our field research in Kuwait a while ago. In the initial days of the lockdown, the Kerala government was requested to send regular medicines for lifestyle diseases. Since medicines are expensive in the GCC, migrants often procure them from India and stock up for a few months. However, the suspension of flights caused an acute shortage of medicines, and exposed the frail medical insurance system in the GCC for these workers. Now, thousands have returned home empty-handed from the host countries. Also read | NoRK remittances set to melt away Indians constitute the largest segment of the South Asian workforce. Gulf migration is predominantly a male-driven phenomenon. A majority of the migrants are single men living in congested labour camps. They share rooms and toilets, to save earnings to send back home. The COVID-19 spike in these labour camps has mainly been due to overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions. However, as the COVID-19 crisis and response unfolded in the Gulf countries, the most neglected segment turned out to be the migrant women domestic workers, whose untold miseries have increased in the present volatile situation. The Indian missions, with their inadequate administrative personnel, could not adequately cater to the needs of the migrants. The situation forced the Indian government to repatriate the NRIs through the Vande Bharat Mission. The Indian government has repatriated over 7.88 lakh NRIs from various destinations. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, etc. have also been repatriating their citizens. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-south-asian-gulf-migrant-crisis/article32215146.ece 2/5

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