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After a year of dedicated effort, we are delighted to declare the official release of the Kerala Migration Survey 2023 Report.

The occasion was marked by a significant event at the 4th edition of the Loka Kerala Sabha where our esteemed Chair, Dr. Irudayarajan Sebastian, presented the Kerala Migration 2023 report to the Honorable Chief Minister, Shri Pinarayi Vijayan.

This report concerns emigrants who returned to Kerala between May and December 2020 in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. We document the experiences of 1985 return emigrants (REM) through a quantitative survey conducted via Computer Assisted Telephonic Interviews (CATI). While the REM have been a demographically, politically and economically significant component of Kerala’s population, the COVID-19 REM represent a unique case in history that has the potential to not only affect the economy, society, and psyche of Kerala for many years to come, but to also provide valuable insights into the future of global labour migration governance.

This post analyses some basic principles of ranking of countries in the Global Gender Gap Index 2021, and examines the presumptions that determine the outcomes. Udaya Shankar Mishra and William Joe highlight the faultlines in these presumptions, and argue that given the importance of these rankings which invariably complicates the hard-earned developments of developing countries, developmental organisations and think tanks from the global South (such as BRICS) should broaden their roles and scope of engagement on global rankings and principles.

State borders, which were easier to cross earlier in India, have required a state modulated ‘e-pass’ since April 2020, in the early stages of the global COVID-19 pandemic. These passes were equated to ‘e-visas’ for movement between states within the country, owing to the increasing incidences of cross-state infections[1]. This national policy was a concerted effort of both central and state governments to help regulate and track the movement of citizens, thereby administering and controlling the deadly virus in the third phase of lockdown[2]. This was an unprecedented closing of inter-state borders in India’s history.

It is unclear how many Indians have contracted COVID-19 in Kuwait, but media reports have stated that Kuwait is the country where most Indians were infected after Singapore.[1] At the same time, thousands of Indians in Kuwait lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Most undocumented migrants work in the construction sector, hotels, sheep herding, gardening, and other low-end jobs. Generally, low-skilled migrant workers from India enter Gulf countries legally. However, some become undocumented migrants at a later stage, after running away from abusive employers who confiscate their passport. Workers can also lose their legal status due to other reasons, such as job loss or visa overstay.

As the Covid-19 pandemic affected one country after another, and with the imposition of travel restrictions worldwide, there was a sudden need for governments to ‘rescue’ its citizens who were stranded overseas. On this front, the Indian government was particularly proactive prior to the announcement of lockdown in India on March 24, 2020.[1] Between February and April, the Indian government embarked upon multiple missions to repatriate its citizens, starting with missions to Wuhan in February. Another ‘rescue’ mission was launched in February to bring back members stranded on the Diamond Princess cruise in Japan. In the month of March, the missions were directed to Iran and Italy, which were severely affected by the pandemic, with a rescue mission being conducted in Iran as late as March 22.

Under the guidance of the Expert Group on Migration Statistics, UN Statistics Division will implement a project on migration-related indicators for SDG monitoring, in collaboration with UN Population Division, UNODC, UNECLAC, UNESCAP and IOM.

International migrants represent a key ingredient of the forces that have made the world a smaller and more prosperous place. Large migration surveys and scientific focus groups can do more to inform actions that can protect the stock of current and future migrants. As the dust settles, COVID-19 will have recalibrated bargaining power of LMICs in the world order.

It is expected that student migration will rebound to pre-pandemic levels after the crisis, but the crisis has also exposed undeniable long–term challenges that faces the international student community. The pandemic has not just spawned financial stress, but also pushed many international students into anxiety and has depleted the feeling of belongingness. The failure of host governments to include international students in any financial relief programme during the pandemic exposes the limitations of internationalism in times of crisis.