India to act against irregular migration: Vayalar Ravi

New Delhi, Nov 26 ( The government is trying to stop illegal migration by targeting the “nefarious activities of Indian intermediaries” in other countries, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said here Thursday.

“We are taking legislative and administrative measures to deal firmly with irregular migration,” Ravi said at a meeting with the heads of Indian missions to countries with a large Indian worker population like Libya, Malaysia, Yemen, the Maldives and the Gulf.

“One of the reasons for irregular migration is the nefarious activities of Indian intermediaries from the host countries. I have written to our missions in this regard in the past,” he said.

Ravi said he wanted the missions to “get after such unscrupulous elements, collect intelligence and share information with the Indian enforcement agencies so that they could be prosecuted under Indian law”.

He said the external affairs ministry is already “taking proactive action to impound their passports if information regarding pending criminal cases against them is furnished”.

The minister said if there was coordinated action between the missions and the state government, it would go a long way in combating irregular migration.

The minister also expressed concern about the welfare of migrants after they returned to India and said he was working towards establishing a Return and Resettlement Fund.

“Our workers in the Gulf are temporary, contractual workers. Typically they are poor, indebted, spend several years in harsh living and working conditions, remit most of their savings back home and often return in poor health and with no savings. This is the frightening prospect that thousands of workers returning from the Gulf face,” he said.

The new fund, he suggested, could be a contribution-based scheme to provide incentives for the return of overseas workers.

Ravi also asked missions to work on scheme for insurance of overseas worker. The ministry already has a Pravasi Bima Yojana, which all migrants have to take to qualify for an emigration check required stamp on their passports.

But, as an MOIA official stated, the number of claims filed in this central scheme is very low. Individual embassies have instead come up with their own versions of insurance schemes.

For example, the Indian mission in Kuwait has made it mandatory for employers to sponsor an insurance scheme for their workers before they are given approval by the Indian embassy. The premium is only about 13 Kuwaiti dinars, with a payment of about 2,000 dinars in case of natural or accidental death.

“We have left it to the missions to decide on what kind of insurance scheme they want to operate,” said Ravi.

He also asked missions to use the recently established Indian Community Welfare Funds, which is a self-financing mechanism to proved support services to emigrants in distress.

The minister said the emigration management bill 2009 will soon be introduced before the cabinet to replace the existing Emigration Act.