Gotta Keep Movin’: February ‘19

India Migration Now
Mar 7, 2019 · 4 min read

How do you ensure the welfare of the world’s largest emigrant population?

A population that is as diverse as their destinations. With outcomes ranging from multi-billion dollar portfolios and to homelessness. From Silicon Valley CEOs to domestic workers.

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Data Source:

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Categories and Sub Groups of Migrants from India (source: IMN Research)

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The Immigration Pathways of Indian Immigrants (LPRs from India) compared to All Immigrants in the United States, 2015

In the early days of 2019, after 35 years, a new draft policy framework for managing and protecting the world’s largest stock of international migrants was quietly released for public comments.

The draft Emigration Bill 2019 aims to manage the emigration process, regulate the overseas employment and student enrolment process, and protect and promote emigrants welfare.

But does it?

Well for one thing, according to this bill only students and workers count as emigrants. Everyone else is excluded from the purview of this bill.

A major chunk of out-migration from India is constituted by those joining their family members abroad — who can be Indian emigrants, NRIs and/or foreign nationals. In the stories told of successful Indians abroad, the role of their families is always underplayed or ignored. Studies show that often each member of emigrant families contributes towards the remittances sent back home. In fact, family migrants often convert their immigration status and become workers. A factor not considered by the 2019 Draft Bill.

Something explained in great detail in our latest podcast by Dr Dilip Ratha, head of KNOMAD at the World Bank.INDIA MIGRATION NOW EXTRA w/ Dilip Ratha

(Click on the logo above to access the podcast)

The draft bill moves away from the regulation of Indian emigrants upon exit and shifts the complete burden of regulation to statutory bodies, foreign employers and intermediaries like recruiting agencies and student enrolment agencies.

The graphics below compares the hierarchical structure of the proposed 2019 framework with the 1983 Act’s incumbent institutional framework. (Source: IMN Research)

In practice, the suspicion amongst all stakeholders is that nothing will change: Emigration policymaking will continue to be driven by reactionary government rules and initiative. A regime with a limited understanding of emigration from India, which will continue to overregulate overseas recruitment and, now, student enrolment.

The number of emigrants from both India and Pakistan has decreased substantially since 2015, while the numbers of Bangladeshi workers migrating to the Gulf Cooperation Countries has seen a sharp increase during the same period. In absolute numbers as well, more Bangladeshi and Pakistani workers have migrated to the six GCC countries than Indian workers in the past two years. This shift could be attributed to the introduction of the compulsory employer registration through the E-migrate system and the introduction of high minimum referral wages, which could have disincentivised recruitment from India.

The oversights in the draft bill betray the Government’s limited understanding of migration from India — there is no complete database on the number of Indian migrants abroad. There is also an erroneous assumption that Indian migrants in a developed destination country have sufficient protection and welfare. The 2019 draft bill is reflective of the government’s primary view of emigration policy as a means for managing the export of human resources rather than a humanitarian framework for safeguarding Indian migrants overseas

Migration is a complex and highly dynamic process with constantly evolving profiles of migrants and their destinations. Only an ex-ante — migrant rights-based approach inclusive of all Indian migrants abroad can be considerate of this and provide Indian migrants abroad with adequate security and welfare. There are a whole host of multilateral migration related treaties and conventions which can provide the necessary guidance for such an approach.

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Migrant rights are the rights of migrants that are implicitly or explicitly expressed in international human rights and public law instruments. A rights-based approach acknowledges that the rights of migrants are granted mainly by human rights law, and also through treaties from other branches of international public law

You can find our official response to the Ministry of External Affairs here.

In our view, the draft bill needs to be completely scrapped and a set of migrant rights need to be first agreed upon with all the stakeholders. These rights need to be applicable to ALL Indian migrants abroad.

Following which a fresh Emigration Bill needs to drafted which enshrines and operationalises these rights. In addition, checks and balances need to be in place for the government’s rulemaking powers by the institutionalisation of relevant external stakeholders in the policy formulation and implementation process.

Without a drastic change in the draft bill’s approach, we will miss the opportunity for a truly visionary and future proof Indian emigration policy framework.

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