The government is seriously considering introduction of a new Bill on emigration in Parliament soon and changes in its policy, including abolition of sponsorship for visit visas, aimed at protecting the interest of Indians working abroad. Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vyalar Ravi told a conference of Heads of Missions (HOMs) here today that among the changes planned were on issues relating to life insurance for Indian labourers working abroad, abolition of sponsorships to visit overseas and curbing the trend of going abroad on visit visas.

The conference is being attended by HOMs from the Gulf Coordination Committee (GCC) countries, Jordan, Libya, Yemen, Malaysia and Maldives. Ravi said his ministry is holding consultations with other ministries on the policy changes and once they are completed these changes will be taken to the Cabinet for approval.

The Minister announced that the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) operating in the Missions of 48 countries would now be extended to all other missions abroad so that it could come in handy to get Indian prisoners released from jails in host countries and in times of emergencies or casualties.

“The initiative is to see to it that nobody suffers due to lack of money,” he added.

Noting that one of the major issues concerning Persons of Indian Origin and Indian workers abroad was that of illegal emigration.

“Whenever we take measures to curb illegal emigration, they (emigrants) find new ways to overcome this. Of particular concern is the misuse of the visit visa provisions, mostly by women, who go there for two or three months and stay on to work after surrendering their passports. They thus become indentured labourers. Visit visa is the major problem the embassies are facing,” Ravi said.

The travel agents, he said, instigate the women to go abroad on visit visas and thus they are caught in the web. The Minister said the government was looking at ways to curb the trend and hence the new Emigration Bill and policy changes were in the offing.

Suggesting that such illegal emigration could be checked at Indian airports, he said the emigration officers should take it more seriously. Another suggestion under consideration of the ministry, Ravi said, was abolition of sponsorship for visit visas, which was being considered by two of the GCC countries at present.

“I believe sponsorship is a kind of a deal between agents from here and the host countries and then share the money paid by the labourers. By abolition, we can help the Indian workers so that they are free from the contracts once the period of agreement is over,” he added.

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