Saudi-Qatar crisis: For Indians, a window of opportunity

The bulk of the Indian expat community in the Gulf has traditionally been from Kerala. Of the estimated 6.5 lakh Indians now in Qatar, some 3 lakh are from Kerala.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram | Published:June 6, 2017 1:10 am
Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Arab countries cut ties, Qatar Airways A map of Qatar is seen in this picture illustration June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration

The decision Monday by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain, followed soon after by Libya’s eastern based government, Yemen and the Maldives, to snap ties with Qatar would likely benefit Indian expatriates in the tiny, gas-rich Emirate, experts in Kerala said. The bulk of the Indian expat community in the Gulf has traditionally been from Kerala. Of the estimated 6.5 lakh Indians now in Qatar, some 3 lakh are from Kerala.

As Qatari employees are forced out of these countries, and reciprocal action takes place in Qatar, job openings could emerge in Qatar. “Indians could fill the jobs vacated by the citizens of these 6 nations. I think it would be an opportunity for Indians and expatriates from entire South Asia,” Dr S Irudaya Rajan, Chair Professor, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs Research Unit on International Migration at the Centre for Development Studies in Thiruvananthapuram, said.

Dr Rajan, who has extensively researched international migration, said Monday’s developments could come as a boon for scores of Indians in Qatar without proper documents. “Life and services can’t come to a standstill. Fresh labour will be required. This would be a short-term gain for Indians,” he said. However, the long-term impact could be different, Dr Rajan warned. Saudi has exhorted other nations to also snap ties with Qatar and freeze investments in that country — should that happen, the job market could be negatively impacted, Dr Rajan said.

Dr K N Raghavan, Chief Executive Officer of the Non-Resident Keralites’ Affairs Department of the state government, said they had not until Monday evening received feedback from Keralites in Qatar. “We have not got any panic calls from those planning to fly to Qatar, either,” Dr Raghavan said. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to intervene to allay the fears of Indian expats in Qatar.

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