Kerala heaved a sigh of relief on Tuesday as Saudi Arabia decided to extent the Nitaqat (labour law) deadline by four months. So far only about 8,500 Kerala migrants from Saudi have returned to the state after they lost their jobs.
The law makes it mandatory to employ a Saudi national for every 10 employees in government and private sector. It was feared that the law would trigger mass exdous of Keralites after Saudi Arabia decided to implement it in March. Expats without a valid work permit were asked to leave the country or regularise their stay before July 3.
According to Non-Resident Kerala Affairs (NoRKA) Department that had opened returnees registration centre at three airports only 8,559 people have registered till July 1. Of them,4,984 had reported at Kozhikode airport.
Though experts say fears of mass return are unfounded,reports from Saudi Arabia say thousands are still waiting to get their final exit pass.
Of the 8,559 returnees from Saudi,some of them might have come back as usual returnees. They might have registered their names to get government incentives for the Nitaqat-affected returnees,said Dr S Irudaya Rajan of Overseas Indian Affairs Research Unit on International Migration.
He said Saudi Arabia would need workers for dirty,dangerous and demeaning jobs. The decision to extent the deadline might be due to the pressure from within the country,from its business groups, said Rajan.
He said a section of those who returned would go to other Gulf countries in the next chance. The decline of Indian rupee is another attraction for Kerala migrants to stay back in the Gulf.
NoRKA Minister K C Joseph claimed that Saudi Arabia extended the deadline due to pressure form Kerala government. On the rehab plan for Saudi returnees,he said,We are planning to give soft loans to start own ventures. Private firms,which give 25 per cent job reservation for returnees,would be given certain amount of government incentives.