With the lack of legal aid at their disposal, many Indians who migrated aboard in search of livelihood have been languishing in prisons for a long time, said P Narayana Swami, president of Migrants Rights Council, Hyderabad. According to an estimate, 6,635 Indians are held up in 112 countries, where Indians migrate to, he added.
He was briefing the media here on Thursday about the second United Nations high level dialogue on migration and development held in New York recently, which deliberated upon migrant workers’ problems. Swami along with two others represented India at the meet.
The government of India has made Pravasi Bharatiya Bima Yojana, an insurance scheme, mandatory for migrants. If enrolled, one gets registered in government records and would receive help during their stay in the foreign country. However, only seven lakh members are enrolled in this scheme out of a total of 60 lakh migrants residing in Gulf countries till date, said Swami.
“This is due to the lack of proper coordination between different ministries. It is not just the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs involved here, but also the Ministry of Home which gives immigration clearance and the Ministry of External Affairs which oversees Indian embassies,” he said.
Of all the foreign countries, the highest number of stranded migrants are in the Gulf countries, he said. “Prisoners’ exchange agreement was signed by India and the UAE in 2012 which allows Indian prisoners to continue the remainder of their sentences here and vice-versa. However, it has not been implemented so far. The government has to implement the agreement immediately,” he demanded.
He added that the government should encourage safe and legal migrations by doing away with spurious agents who do not follow requisite processes. “Once the government regulates the recruitment process many problems can be curtailed,” he said. He added that the Indian government should ensure that the respective countries follow International Labour Organisation’s labour rights.