Over 2 lakh non-resident Keralites have registered their request with the state government agency in the last 24 hours, expressing their wish to return home amid fears of coronavirus and job losses in countries they are in. The Keralites from 160 countries have submitted their request to catch the earliest flight to reach their home state and this has also been brought into the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said K Varadarajan, Vice Chairman of NORKA-Roots, the field agency of Department of Non-Resident Keralite Affairs.
"We expect three to five lakh registrations," said Varadarajan. The state government has made arrangements to test and quarantine two lakh non-residents as and when they reach any of the four international airports in the state, he added. If the central government gives the permission to bring these people back, the state is ready to receive and treat them, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said earlier. The non-resident Keralites are the major revenue source for the state as their annual remittance comes to Rs 80,000 crore.
"The crisis that Kerala faces because of COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown is that our people are stuck in other countries. Their safety is our priority. We are constantly working to bring them back," Vijayan said. Varadarajan said the government prioritises to bring the pregnant women, people with serious illness and the students who are being forced to stay back without visa. "We need chartered flights to bring back such large number of people," he added.
About 70,000 Keralites registered from UAE and 30,000 from Saudi Arabia. There are requests from the US and the UK also. The state government plans to bring these people back stage-by-stage. The large-scale return of the people will affect the revenue of the state, which has now been shifting its focus to the US, Europe and Africa as the job opportunities are starting to dry up in the Gulf.