Even as the United Arab Emirates prepares to ship thousands of undocumented Indian workers home, numbers from the external affairs ministry reveal that a total of about 1.7 lakh Indians have been forced to leave the Gulf Cooperation Council countries alone since 2014.
Another 30,000 have been forced to return from other countries, taking the total forced evacuations to 2 lakh.
The news is especially bad for a country like India that depends on remittances by foreign workers to meet a substantial part of its trade deficit and avoid going bankrupt.
Out of the 1.7 lakh who returned to India from GCC countries alone, nearly half came in 2017.
Similarly, out of the 1.7 lakh who came from the six GCC countries, more than half — or 95,000 — were forcibly deported due to lack of valid visas under various amnesty programs of the local governments. The remaining 72,500 came back to India despite having valid visas due to economic reasons, such as job losses.
In both categories, the largest number of people came from Saudi Arabia. The country accounted for about 79% of all deportations and 63% of all voluntary returns.
Indian workers to the Gulf region are being forced to return to their country of origin due to the prolonged slump in oil prices that impacted the economies of these oil-dependent countries.
Rising unemployment among local populations, particularly in Saudi, has also led local governments, such as that of Saudi Arabia, to proscribe certain jobs and sectors for foreign workers.
Between March and November of last year, a total of 75,000 Indians were shipped off from Saudi Arabia under an amnesty program for those without valid visas. Another 46,000 have left the country on their own over last three years – taking the total to 1.2 lakh.
Among the biggest instances of people leaving Saudi because of economic reasons was the return of 4,900 workers of Saudi Oger and the SAAD Group from Saudi Arabia last year.
The second biggest contributor of returning Indians was Kuwait, from where nearly 14,000 Indians returned under such an Amnesty program in the first four months of this year. Another 13,000 or so have returned voluntarily. This includes 1,700 workers of Kharafi National who came back earlier this year.
Out of the six GCC countries, the only one that did not offer any amnesty program between 2014 and 2017 was the UAE. However, UAE too has, in the last few days, announced an amnesty scheme for illegal Indians in the country.
Besides the above 1.7 lakh people from the GCC countries, another 30,000 Indians have been brought back to India during the same period from other regions, including non-GCC countries such as Yemen and Iraq, taking the total number of returning workers to nearly 2 lakh since the current government came to power.