Andhra absorbs many Gulf returnees in construction sector

August 24th, 2008 - 1:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, Aug 24 (IANS) Almost 70 percent of those who had returned to Andhra Pradesh in November last year under the amnesty declared by the United Arab Emirates have got jobs.Most have found employment in the booming construction sector under a special state government programme. Other repatriates, mostly unskilled workers, have been rehabilitated through funds from the Rajiv Yuva Shakti Yojana by being provided with agricultural implements, including tractors.

Around 70,000 Indian illegal workers had taken advantage of the amnesty scheme to return home, but there were many who did not have the money to pay for their return fare. The Indian consulate in Dubai arranged for the return of a large number of the impoverished workers through special loan schemes, which allowed them to pay when they returned home. The Andhra Pradesh government, however, brought back about 13,000 penniless illegal migrants at government cost in special chartered flights last year.

Many of the returnees were skilled and semi-skilled workers, like turners, fitters, masons, framers, joiners, finishers, shuttering workers and had experience of working methods on large-scale projects in the Gulf. The state government made a special effort of trying to match their skills to the demands of the industry by holding job fairs in collaboration with construction and other business enterprises. These fairs were held in districts with high illegal migration, such as Adilabad, Karimnagar, Nizamabad and East Godavari.

The state government’s Overseas Manpower Company of Andhra Pradesh Ltd (OMCAP) has also been able to help about 700 people locate jobs overseas. The agency assisted a group of young men to find jobs as security guards in Macau. Jobseekers have also found employment as skilled workers with proper work permits in Gulf countries like Oman.

The manpower corporation was one of the recommendations of a six-member panel headed by Minister for Minorities and NRI Affairs Mohammed Ali Shabbir. Set up two years ago, OMCAP acts as a facilitator for prospective migrants, who register with the agency; they are helped to find jobs and are assisted in obtaining passports, visas, air tickets and occupational competency certificates.

According to M.V. Ramana Reddy, special secretary, NRI Affairs, Andhra Pradesh, the state government is in discussion with private insurance companies to come up with “attractive insurance packages for unforeseen circumstances for the migrant workers”.

There are more than one million people from Andhra Pradesh in Saudi Arabia, forming the largest segment of Indians in the country. In other Gulf countries like the UAE and Kuwait, Andhra Pradesh residents form the second largest group of Indians.

A large number of these workers living in the Gulf countries are illegal migrants, who are exploited and unable to return home. Most of the illegal immigrants have gone to the Gulf countries on visit visas and have then disappeared to work at jobs without requisite work permits, turning themselves into illegal workers at the mercy of their employers. The workers get trapped, as they are unable to return home without the necessary exit documents. A large number of them have been tricked by labour or travel agents who promise them regular work visas.

The relatively lax method of giving visas has aggravated the problem of illegal migrants. While visas to several countries with high immigration carry the applicants’ photograph on them, the Gulf countries are still to adopt these modern visa issuing methods, nor is there sufficient screening of visa sponsors - all of this results in fraud and exploitation of the migrants. The state government has requested the ministry of external affairs to streamline the process of issuing visas in consultation with the host countries in order to protect the interests of migrant workers.

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