2 million NRIs residing in 10 countries hit by coronavirus
The Union government on Wednesday informed Parliament that 255 Indian citizens were infected by the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in Iran, one of the countries worst hit by the infection. Even as the government has evacuated hundreds of Indians from China, where the infection originated, and other countries including Iran, official data shows that a large number of Indians abroad may be vulnerable to the virus.
According to data compiled by the United Nations in 2019, India was the leading country of origin of international migrants in the world. It estimated that a total of 17.5 million Indian migrants lived across the world, forming more than 6% of the world’s total migrant population.
Data on overseas Indians compiled by the Union ministry of external affairs (MEA) in December 2018 showed that there were more than 13 million non-resident Indians (NRIs, those holding an Indian passport but ordinarily residing outside India) and nearly 18 million persons of Indian origin (PIOs, those who or whose ancestors were Indian nationals but have a passport of any foreign country) across the world.
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Even as some of the Indians living outside the country would have voluntarily travelled back home or been evacuated by the government in view of the virus outbreak, coming to India has become difficult with multiple airlines cancelling international flights and the government imposing travel restrictions.
This leaves many Indians living in the worst-hit countries more vulnerable to the virus. According to MEA data, more than 15% NRIs (nearly 2 million people) were in 10 countries that have by far recorded the highest number of positive coronavirus cases, including China. Of these, the highest number of NRIs were living in the United States at nearly 1.3 million.
There were more than 300,000 NRIs in Italy, Iran, Spain and Germany -- the four worst-hit countries outside China. Also, more than 86% NRIs Indians lived in countries where at least 100 positive cases of coronavirus have been confirmed. Of these, Indians from Iran are the only ones who can come into the country right now -- but they will be quarantined. The others cannot.
In some countries, mainly in the Arabian region, Indians comprise a significantly large share of international migrant population, according to the UN data. For instance, 43% of all international migrants in Bahrain, where 256 people have been found Covid-19 positive, were Indians.