Recounts of Indian expats including Goans residing in the UAE and Middle East countries paints the picture that is far from rosy and flourishing as we are often led to believe. The Arabian dream for many has become a nightmare particularly after the 2014 meltdown in Gulf countries. Many Goans are on their way back from UAE and other Middle East countries in a search of a better life.
The Middle East may have once been a job-haven for those who wanted to earn more than a decent living and support families back home. Hundreds of thousands of Goans had migrated to the various countries the Middle East and UAE (United Arab Emirates) and been living a very good life till the time things started falling apart and many Goans decide to come back.
According to Youthkiawaz, UAE hosts 2.2mn Indians, which accounts for 26% of the total population. Of this 40 % are Keralites and Goans. The Goan diaspora began migrating to Dubai in the 1930s.
But in 2014 when a glut in global oil supply brought prices down, these countries adopted austerity measures and imposed new levies. The ‘Arabian Nights’ particularly for Indians, was over. Working in Gulf countries now does not necessarily mean earning well, as the cost of living skyrockets.
According to Youth Ki Awaz, hundreds of people fly to Gulf countries on tourist visas in search of jobs, without knowing the real picture. Most bachelors, or married men (with families back home) end up living as paying guests, with 4 to 6 people in a single room (commonly known as bed-spaces in Dubai), with shared bathrooms for 12-15 people. Many find it difficult to adjust to these cramped and sometimes unhygienic living conditions. They also find it difficult to adapt to strict rules like heavy fines in crossing roads at any juncture other than zebra crossings or sitting with folded legs at public places, as they are accustomed to back home.
People’s first accounts of their life there, even before the economic downturn, indicates that all that glitters is indeed not gold. According to Youth Ki Awaz, Dubai may be painted as an extravagant mix of tall buildings, aquariums, theme parks, airports, malls and the like, but in reality, things are not as they are portrayed.
They narrate the story of a young 22-year-old electrician from Delhi who migrated to Dubai a few years ago. Although he earns a handsome salary of Rs.35,000 per month, his contractor/middleman holds the charge of his passport. Going home on leave is a distant prospect, till such time his contract expires.
In another instance, an HP taxi driver, moved to Dubai hoping to bring his family out of poverty. However, little did he know that working in Dubai is all about rules and regulations and breaking rules means inviting heavy fines. Also in the event of accidents, money would be deducted from the salary. In the absence of any labor laws or unions, they are caught in a no-win situation.
In other Gulf countries, a similar story is being told. According to The Economic Times, as the cost of living rise in the Gulf countries rises due to new taxes, Indian workers are heading back home.
Mohammed Baquer returned to his hometown in Hyderabad after three decades in Saudi as the government was levying a fee on various services it offered to expatriates. The most taxing was the residence fee, which now charges per person, instead of per family, making it difficult for people to maintain their families in Saudi now. The government also levied an expat levy on employers, thus forcing a large segment of the Indian expats to leave.
According to The Gazelle (The uncertain future of UAE expats), the situation in Abu Dhabi speaks of a similar fate. “You find your name on the cut list of your company during a downturn in the economy. You make one mistake, step one toe out of line, and then going back or moving elsewhere becomes the only option. On the other hand, you can be forced to stay in the UAE longer by either the burden of debt or being trapped by other unforeseen circumstances.”
Many expats come to the Gulf to mine the ‘gold’ they are so often led to believe exists there and then go back to their old lives in their own countries once they are done. That dream, as can be seen, has not transpired for many.