An Exploratory Study on Return Migration to India during COVID-19

Author Name

Nidhi Menon


Return Migration and COVID-19


The COVID-19 global pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities and inequalities of the global order. While the true impact of the pandemic on incomes, livelihoods and the economy as a whole is still a developing perspective, it is evident that international migrant workers are among one of the worst-hit workers. With worldwide travel restrictions falling into place, the phenomenon of return migration was triggered- with migrants leaving their destination countries and returning to their home countries. This study undertakes primary research survey using blended qualitative-quantitative questioning to understand the trends of international return migration to India during COVID-19, the experiences of returnee migrants and the paradigms of return migration born out of the pandemic. Through the survey of 120 Indian returnee migrants, this paper identifies key themes of the experience of international migrants during the pandemic. These include health related fears, occupation loss during the pandemic, access to social security and welfare measures, experiences of wage theft and challenges faced during their repatriation. Further, this survey also investigates the future of emigration by India by enquiring if the returnee migrants have aspirations to remigrate and if they wish to explore new destination countries in the post pandemic labour market.

An important aspect of this study is identifying the unique policy problems reflected from the responses of returnee migrant communities. Through descriptive analysis, this study identifies key categories for policy intervention such as employment needs of returnee migrants, reintegration of returnees into the domestic society and other areas that could potentially aid in creating an effective, comprehensive and ethical migration policy for India.



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