CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu has earned the dubious distinction of having the most of number of illegal emigrants in the UAE, who desperately apply for an emergency certificate to return to their homeland. An emergency certificate is a one-way travel document issued to Indian nationals abroad who do not have valid documents, including a passport.
According to statistics from the Indian Consulate in Dubai, over the past seven months, there has been a three-fold increase in the number of emergency certificate applicants from Tamil Nadu, as compared to the whole of 2008. Most of them are those whose travel documents were not in order and worked in sectors that were hit by the economic slowdown.
While, only 812 persons from the state had returned using the emergency certificates last year, the figure has already touched 2,525 as of July this year, which is the highest in the country. Andhra Pradesh followed Tamil Nadu with 1,745 applicants this year compared to 1,397 in 2008. However, Kerala, which has a huge workforce in the UAE, saw only 574 people returning last year using emergency certificates while in 2009 the number of applicants was 557.
In Tamil Nadu, thousands of workers from Chidambaram, Thanjavur, Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga, Madurai, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts are employed in the construction industry in the UAE which has seen a slowdown, and many of them have been asked to go on long leave till the projects resume.
An estimated 1.5 million Indians are working in the UAE with 1.2 million of them in Dubai and Northern Emirates. In 2008, the UAE was the single most-preferred destination for Indian workers followed by Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Malaysia and Bahrain.
The migration of workers, monitored by the Indian Protector of Emigrants’, rose by 11.87% in 2008 compared to 2007. There are more than five million Indians in the Gulf. Official UAE figures show that 6,62,000 new labour visas were issued between October 2008 and March 2009.
South Asian expatriates in the Gulf are concentrated in Saudi Arabia (50%) and UAE (26%). Kuwait accounts for 11%, Oman 7%, Qatar 3% and Bahrain 2%. Preliminary studies done on international migration have found out that the deepening of the financial slowdown in Gulf Cooperation Council countries would have diverse impacts on migrant workers.
Many of the workers from Tamil Nadu who go to the UAE travel on visit visas and end up as illegals on the roads of Dubai.
“After a couple of months when the worker gets desperate for money he sells his passport for Dirhams 3,000 (Rs 30,000) to a Kasargode mafia from Karnataka that indulges in prostitution and bootlegging in the Gulf. This mafia in turn uses this passport for their men to visit India,” a consulate official said.
Unlike Kerala, Tamil Nadu has done little to rehabilitate returnees from the Gulf in the wake of the global recession.
In 2008, a total of 1,645 illegal Indian nationals from all over India left the UAE on emergency certificates, while till last month 6,047 Indians availed of the emergency certificate from the UAE to India.
Daniel P George, TNN 3 August 2009,