Indian authorities have confirmed that more than 700,000 Indians working in the six-national Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states returned home following the onset of the COVID-19 global health crisis in 2020.

Revealing the statistics in answer to a query in the Indian Parliament, the country’s Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar, said of the total 716,662 workers recorded as having returned to India, almost half were from the UAE (330,058), followed by Saudi Arabia (137,900), Kuwait (97,802) and Oman (72,259).

Speaking during a Parliament session on Thursday, the External Affairs Minister underlined that the workers returned under the aegis of the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM), a government-based repatriation mission for Indians stranded abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pointing out that the Mission is ongoing and currently in Phase 15, the minister added that it has also been highly successful in re-housing a number of workers in the Gulf countries they came from. Missions, such as these, utilize the Indian Community Welfare Fund, in conjunction with local community associations. This support includes expenses related to lodging, airfares and emergency medical care, said Jaishankar.

“Our objective is to get as many workers back there as possible; and many of them if possible back to their old jobs. Retaining their employment, ensuring that their wages are paid, and ensuring welfare of these workers, have been very much the priority of our missions in the Gulf,” he said. “From the highest level we have been engaged in this matter and we have been regularly talking to the governments of the Gulf at my level and at the ambassadors’ level,” he added.

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