“Fight or Run”: Indians considering moving abroad during the COVID crisis | Coronavirus pandemic news

New Delhi, India – In the past few years, Shaily Agrawal, a 25-year-old digital communications expert based in New Delhi, felt out of place in her own country.

She said that India, which she insists on, has “had undergone tremendous changes,” and there is now a “huge contrast” between her beliefs and the “direction the country is heading”.

Although the polarized political environment in recent years has made Agrawal consider leaving India, the devastating second wave of coronavirus finally broke the balance and made her seriously consider options abroad.

“Mentally, it has been imprisoned. It is really hellish. Agrawal told Al Jazeera that the inefficiency of the healthcare system is exposed and there is nothing to be trusted.

“A large part of me doesn’t want to escape, but is here to find a solution. But who am I kidding? If there is a chance, I will leave without hesitation.”

Parv Kaur wants to settle in France where she is studying [Courtesy of Parv Kaur]

Parv Kaur, an Indian researcher studying for a degree in France, said that a two-month stay in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, was enough for her to consider permanent settlement in Paris, where she had a two-year temporary residence permit.

“I went home in late March to attend my brother’s wedding. Because of the epidemic, I was trapped in my hometown. The conditions there were terrible. I knew very well there, and then I couldn’t live in India and settle there permanently,” Kaul told Al Jazeera.

“Stay here (in France) is a better choice for me. The situation is much better than India because of the vaccination. Economically and academically, I don’t think there is any comparison,” she said.

The devastating second wave of COVID

Beginning in late March, India witnessed a devastating second wave of pandemics. Thousands of people died due to lack of access to medical oxygen, medicines and hospital beds.

Crematoriums across the country were overwhelmed. People saw crematoriums burning in parking lots or sidewalks, and bodies floating in the river.

The shocking images of coronavirus patients panting outside the hospital due to lack of oxygen and beds have made many people consider emigrating to a country with better living and healthcare facilities.

Agrawal comes from an upper-middle class family in Chhattisgarh. She said that leaving seemed to be the only option because the situation in India was “irreparable”, although she had never faced the economic difficulties that prompted many Indians to leave the country.

Shaily Agrawal said that moving overseas now seems to be the only option [Courtesy of Shaily Agrawal]

“In the final analysis, when it comes to survival, it is a fight or flight situation,” Agrawal said, adding that she might quit her job and apply for a degree abroad to “go out.”

“For 10 days, I wake up every day and receive text messages from some extended family members or friends saying that someone in their family has passed away,” she said.

Inquiries surge

Al Jazeera interviewed more than a dozen visa and immigration service providers, most of whom said that in the past two months, the number of people asking about immigration procedures in other countries has increased “unprecedented”.

Dharmesh Dhakan, managing director of Fly for Holidays, a visa agency in the western state of Maharashtra, said he has seen a 40% increase in immigration inquiries during this period.

“The number of people who want to move out has skyrocketed,” Jyoti Mayar, president of the Association of Indian Travel Agents, told Al Jazeera.

“After the mismanagement of COVID and its impact on the market, people want to leave the country. Many industries are affected. They want to move to a place where they can work and feel safe.”

The supplier also stated that, unlike in the past most inquiries came from low-income groups seeking overseas jobs, now a large number of inquiries are made by middle- and upper-middle-class Indians.

According to the Global Wealth Immigration Review report, nearly 5,000 Indian millionaires (2% of high-net-worth individuals) have left the country in 2020.

Amjad CA, owner of Nature Holidays, a visa and immigration service provider in Wayanad, Kerala, said people “urgently” want to move abroad, but visa and travel restrictions have brought more anxiety and confusion.

“We receive more than 100 inquiries every day,” Amjad told Al Jazeera. “People come to us to ask about job opportunities in Thailand, Malaysia, Qatar, the United States and Canada. They mostly ask which countries allow Indians to stay and work.”

“Many people came to me to ask if they would move to Saudi Arabia and other countries. But because there is no direct travel between India and Saudi Arabia, they went to Bahrain first, and then went to Saudi Arabia after completing the quarantine. They are willing to spend more for this trip Up to 1,20,000 rupees (1,650 US dollars),” he added.

Immigration issues for Indian citizens who live abroad and have family members in India are also increasing.

“Many Indians live outside and they want their families to be with them, especially considering the country’s poor healthcare system. As a result, there has been a clear surge in such cases,” Mayal said.

According to the United Nations report, India already has the largest diaspora in the world, with 18 million people from India living in other countries.

For Sudipta Mallik, a 24-year-old IT professional from Hougli, West Bengal, the devastating second wave of COVID was eye-opening because it “exposed the country’s infrastructure and healthcare crisis.”

For him, like Agarwal, it is time to look for better opportunities abroad.

“I have a good job with a high salary. But the COVID crisis has completely destroyed the country, and I don’t think the situation will get better in the next three to four years. So, I think it’s time to look for alternatives elsewhere. ,” Malik told Al Jazeera.

“Now I just want to move out. I am even applying for a PhD in a foreign university. I will consider entering academia or continuing to work in the corporate world in the future,” he said.

overseas study

Various overseas education consulting companies interviewed by Al Jazeera across India confirmed that the number of people looking for opportunities to study abroad has increased dramatically because it provides an “easier way” for immigration.

Kishore Sabarangani, owner of NZ Connexions, an immigration consulting company based in Mumbai, told Al Jazeera: “Many people are going to study again after quitting their jobs in order to move to a different country.”

“The volume of enquiries has increased dramatically, especially in places like New Zealand. People think this is a good place to settle. But since March last year, people’s despair has been growing due to the travel restrictions imposed by New Zealand,” he said .

Sameer Moothedath, director of Edroots, an overseas education consulting company based in Kerala, believes that some countries’ left-behind policies are encouraging many Indians to quit their jobs and apply for educational programs to settle abroad. Many Indian students have also decided to go abroad for further studies, believing that this is a simpler way of immigration.

The stay-behind policy allows foreign students to stay in the host country for a period of time after completing their studies to find a job.

Once they find a job, they can obtain permanent residency and citizenship rights. Australia, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States offer accommodation options, making them popular destinations.

“The demand for going out for education has increased by about 40%. The important reason is government accountability in other countries, which is not here. They get vaccines, good health care and unemployed wages in these countries,” Moothedath told Al Jazeera.

He added: “Due to their policy of staying in the UK, the number of students applying to the UK has soared to 65%.”

Afsal Avunhipurath, a lawyer based in the UK dealing with immigration cases, told Al Jazeera that there has been a surge in applications from Indian students.

Avunhipurath told Al Jazeera: “Even before the second wave, the number of people coming to the UK has increased, but now the demand is much higher.”

Dr. Tarfarosh believes that more and more Indians will choose to leave in the near future [Courtesy of Dr Shah Tarfarosh]

Dr. Shah Tarfarosh, a psychiatrist living in Oxford, England, attributed this trend to the “push-pull” theory of German-British immigrant scholar Ernest George Ravenstein, that the disadvantages of a place will People “push away”, while favorable conditions elsewhere “pull them in.” “.

“India recorded the third highest number of deaths from the coronavirus in the world. The media portrayed these deaths in shocking ways, exacerbating the impending sense of doom,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Therefore, psychologically, people begin to associate their hometown with death. Naturally, in order to avoid death, their brains are’pushing’ them from disadvantaged regions to countries with many’pull’ factors or favorable conditions.”

Tafaros believes that in the near future, more and more Indians will choose to leave.

“Psychology shows that group behavior is so powerful that news of some people’s migration will force more Indians to do so,” he said.

“From the perspective of the pandemic, too, although there are thousands of deaths in Western countries, they (Indians) can clearly see the difference between Western and Indian healthcare,” he added.

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