News Excerpts
Recently, nine fishermen belonging to Kerala and Tamil Nadu undertook a perilous sea journey from Yemen to flee from their sponsor and arrived at the coast of Cochin. This has sparked larger debate around the Emigration Reforms required in India.  

•    Emigration in India was defined under the Emigration Act of 1983. The act was enacted to address the large-scale emigration of Indian workers to the gulf region.
•    The Act also vests in the Protector General, the responsibility of ensuring the protection and welfare of the emigrants and regulating the recruitment process to prevent malpractices.
•    The act provided for separate processes of emigration for skilled and unskilled labourers, based on their educational qualifications and the destination. Those who intend to migrate to United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Malaysia, Libya, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan, Brunei, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Syria, Lebanon, and Thailand with an educational qualification below class 10th, are required to get an Emigration Clearance (ECR) from the office of the Protector of Emigrants.
•    Since 1983, the scale and migration from India has changed drastically and the act lacked several capacities such as
o    The act only takes economic immigration into account. This shows the restrictive manner in which the policy framework views emigration.
o    Sub-optimal utilization of existing resources.
o    Delays in prosecution of illegal agents.
o    Lack of legislative provisions for effective programs like pre-departure orientation, skill upgradation etc.  
•    Government of India had decided to replace the existing act with a new Emigration Bill, 2019.

Emigration Challenges  
    Absence of Migration Policy: It affects India’s ability to use the potential offered by Indians in the international labor market. Further, there is a lack of database on various aspects of migration such as profiles of migrants, their job profile, and country of destination.
    Unauthorized recruitment agents:A large number of unauthorized recruitment agents are present in India, these agents lure people into unrealistic promises and often use illegal means to send people abroad. They have created a syndicate of drugs and human trafficking.
    Skill Development: The skill sets of migrant workers is a major hindrance in finding overseas employment.  
    Referral wages: The government has fixed minimum referral wages to regulate the wages of Indian workers employed in the Emigration Check Required countries. These wages have not kept pace with economic changes in the destination countries, which may result in reduced preference for Indian workers.
    Gender and migration: There is an urgent need for a gender-sensitive migration policy, which takes into account gender-specific concerns and risks. The government’s approach towards female migrant workers focused mostly on ensuring their protection and safety.  However, this may be a short-term approach that impacts the opportunities of women migrants.  

Draft Emigration Bill
Government has decided to replace the Emigration Act 1983 with a new bill and the major changes suggested in the bill are:
    Institutional Framework: The bill proposes a three-tier institutional framework, with the MEA as the nodal ministry.
o    At the top level, Central Emigration Management Authority (EMA) has been proposed for policy guidance and supervision.
o    In the middle, a Bureau of Emigration Policy and Planning, and a Bureau of Emigration Administration shall handle day-to-day operational matters and oversee the welfare of emigrants.
o    At the bottom, nodal authorities in states and union territories shall coordinate on aspects of management related to both emigrants and returnees.
o    This could allow vertical policy coherence on emigration matters—particularly in promoting and managing safe, orderly and regular emigration.
    Registration/Intimation: It makes mandatory digital registration/intimation of all categories of Indian nationals proceeding for overseas employment as well as students pursuing higher studies abroad, Further, registration of agencies and sub-agents has been made compulsory. It also proposes a rating of agencies.
    Clearly Defined Roles of Agencies: They must provide for a comprehensive policy which focuses on the welfare of emigrants and their empowerment. It includes proper documentation, insurance, skill upgradation as well as pre-departure orientation programmes.
    Emigration Clearance:  The bill doesn’t provide for differential categories which means that all emigrants will have to undergo the same procedure for emigration clearance. Hence it abolishes two passports regime based on a person’s educational qualifications.This will significantly improve the collection of migration flow data.

Short Falls of Draft Emigration Bill
    Exclusionary Nature: It doesn’t provide for Indians reuniting with family members abroad which constitute a major chunk of out-migration from India. It doesn’t look after the economic or political freedom of its migrant. It doesn’t look after the numerous instances of Indian spouses being ‘lured’ abroad in marriage and then stranded or exploited. The law is also silent on the undocumented migrants. These migrants live in incredibly precarious situations, with many living in poverty.
    White-Collar Problem: It lacks management structures and policies that better reflect the current nature and pattern of emigration especially concerning the aspirations of and challenges for white-collared emigrants.
    Lack of representation: Proposed EMA has representation form only two ministries.  It notably excludes representation of the ministry of commerce and industry, which handles important economic negotiation for e.g. it is currently involved in the negotiation of Mode 4 negotiations (movement of natural persons) under the General Agreement on Trade in Services at the WTO. This shall necessitate a cross-sectoral approach in emigration management.
    Legislation Issues: The current international paradigm relating to labour market protectionism demands a wider approach than the present legislative framework.
    Return Migration: Amigration cycle has four stages- the pre-departure, journey, destination and return. The Bill addresses only the first three parts of the cycle while completely ignoring return migration. Globally, one in four migrants today is a return migrant.  Return migration in Kerala alone ranges between 1.2 and 1.5 million.
    Agencies: These intermediaries play an instrumental role in minimising information asymmetries and migration costs. The prescribed regulatory process in India has inadvertently created barriers to migration thereby increasing the cost of emigration.
    Wrong Assumptions:  There is also an erroneous assumption that Indian migrants in a developed destination country have sufficient protection and welfare. The draft Bill personifies the government’s primary view of emigration policy as a means for managing the export of human resources rather than a humanitarian framework to safeguard Indian migrants overseas.

    There is a need for Migrant Worker Welfare Centres at international airports to provide information.
    There is a need to create a digitized database with records of all migrant workers, their recruitment companies, skills, and educational qualifications.
    There is a need to create a separate department under the Protector of Emigrants to investigate complaints of exploitation and abuse by recruiters.  
    There is a need for a rights-based approach that is inclusive of all Indian migrants abroad, can be considerate and provide them with adequate security and welfare.
    MEA should take suo moto actions by engaging the Protector of Emigrants offices in states or districts where more complaints are received.  Further, these offices should lodge complaints with the local police so that illegal recruitment can be curbed.
    Focus must be on Five core elements in preparing the workforce for global mobility including (i) alignment of qualifications with global standards, (ii) infrastructure development, (iii) credible assessment and certification framework, (iv) pre-departure orientation, and (v) job linkage
    MEA should coordinate with the Ministry of Labour and set up a committee for reviewing the referral wages on an annual basis.
    A 24*7 women helpline should be established in Indian Missions abroad.   

MEA Digital Policies for Emigrants
    e-Migrate System:  Comprehensive and online database of emigrants, Missions, Recruiting Agents, Foreign Employers, Insurance Agencies
    Madad: It is a portal for online lodging of the grievances of the emigrants, which are attended to on priority basis.

Indian Community Welfare Fund, PravasiBharatiyaSahayata Kendras, PravasiBharatiyaBima Yojana, PravasiKaushal Vikas Yojana,Pre- Departure Orientation Programmes, PravasiBhartiya Divas