The number of illegal Indian workers leaving Dubai soared in the first four months of 2009 as the financial crisis hit demand for day laborers on building sites, India's consul-general to Dubai said on Thursday.
Thousands of Indian workers are employed informally in the United Arab Emirates, the second-largest Arab economy, entering the country without proper work permits and often working as day laborers for construction companies.
"Obviously the financial crisis was the reason for the increase," Venu Rajamony, India's consul-general told Reuters.
He said one way of tracking the movement of illegal Indian workers was through emergency certificates, the documents issued by the consulate in lieu of missing passports which permit Indian citizens to return home.
Consulate data showed the number of emergency certificates granted to illegal workers in Dubai and the northern emirates jumped almost six-fold in the first four months of 2009 to 5,277, compared with 894 in the same period last year.
"The people coming asking for emergency certificates are saying there are no more jobs available in the economy and they prefer to go back," Rajamony said.
Regional trade and tourism hub, Dubai, is one of seven members of the UAE federation and the leader of a regional property boom that collapsed late last year.
Thousands have lost their jobs as billions of dollars of real estate projects have been shelved in recent months, although with little official data it is unclear just how many workers have left the country.
Foreigners, mainly from the Indian subcontinent, make up 80 to 90 percent of the UAE's population of about 4.5 million.
Rajamony said the UAE was the "single-most important destination for Indian workers" who made up 42.5 percent of the UAE's labor force last year.
The people coming asking for emergency certificates are saying there are no more jobs available in the economy and they prefer to go back
Venu Rajamony, India\\\'s consul-general
Analysts are expecting a sharp decline in the population of Dubai, the world's third-largest oil exporter, with investment bank EFG-Hermes forecasting it could fall 17 percent in 2009.
However, UAE officials say there has been little change in the workforce.
Labor Minister Saqr Ghabbash this week refuted reports of an exodus, saying the ministry had issued more new labor cards than it cancelled in the last six months.
He said many employers were giving staff extended leave rather than firing them as they ride out the economic downturn.
Also Virgina Chalvez, labor attaché at the Philippines consulate in Dubai, said that the Pilipino community had not been drastically affected by the crisis, according to Gulf News.
Also the Bangladeshi ambassador said there was nearly 50,000 Bangladeshis that came to the UAE in the first two months of the year, when the slowdown was at its peak.