According to the International Organisation of Migration’s (IOM) World Migration Report 2022, there were 281 million international migrants globally in 2020, with nearly two-thirds being labour migrants. In the larger pool of migrants, South Asia’s share is nearly 40% and South Asia-Gulf Migratory corridor being the world’s largest migrant corridor.


Issues faced by migrant labourers abroad

  • Long-term problems — Irregular payment, non-payment of wages, abuse at the workplace, etc. These have been prevailing more in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
  • Persistent issues — Poor working conditions, negation of labour rights, absence of a proper grievance redress mechanisms, access to a transparent judicial system, etc.
  • During COVID-19 — The appalling underpayment of migrant workers was more widespread as businesses encountered financial pressures and vast numbers of workers were repatriated without payment of their wages.


India’s case

  • A document tabled in Parliament recently revealed around 9 million Indian migrants working in the GCC countries presently.
  • As per Kerala government data, some 1.7 million Keralites returned from abroad during the pandemic between June 2020 and June 2021 and 1.5 million had suffered job losses.
  • There have also been recent cases of Indian engineers from Tamil Nadu trafficked to Myanmar to work for a crypto-scam and Indian nurses trafficked to the UAE for fake job offers.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed the exploitative nature of the Kafala system in GCC countries.
  • Kafala, a sponsorship system that regulates the relationship between employers and migrant workers, has invariably resulted in the mass retrenchment of the labour force.
  • According to Centre for Indian Migrant Studies (CIMS) data, a total of ₹62.58 crore has been denied to the 397 returnees during the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting stark wage theft.


Regulatory framework in India

  • India’s Emigration Act, 1983 — It provides the regulatory framework for emigration of Indian workers for contractual overseas employment and seeks to safeguard their interests and ensure their welfare.
      • The act also mandated registration and certification of recruiting agents with the Protector General of Emigrants, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), to avoid deception.
      • It also directed employers to recruit only through registered recruiters.
      • It placed ceiling limits on service fee that can be charged by recruiters to the migrant workers.
      • It also called for review of documents before travel is authorized and monitors the flow of illegal emigrants, inspect conveyances, and enquire about their residence in foreign countries.
  • Draft National Policy on Migrant Workers — The policy proposed by NITI Aayog promotes a rights-based approach to migrant workers and also recommends the creation of a migration resource center in high migration areas.


The Draft Emigration Bill of 2021

  • Background —
    • Migration in India has witnessed sea changes, in the last 40 years and the 1983 act has been criticised as falling short in addressing large-scale emigration and its wide geo-economic, geo-political and geo-strategic impact in the current times.
    • Thus, in 2021, the MEA came up with the Draft Emigration Bill of 2021, to address the loopholes in the existing act.
  • Key features of the Bill —
    • It seeks to create two authorities –
        • Bureau of Emigration Policy and Planning (BEPP): It seeks to prepare policies on matters related to the welfare of emigrants and negotiating labour and social security agreements with destination countries.
        • Bureau of Emigration Administration (BEA): It seeks to maintain a database of Indian emigrants, and implementing measures and programmes for the welfare of emigrants.
    • A Central Emigration Management Authority will oversee welfare of Indian citizens living and working abroad and will have powers of a civil court.
    • The Bill seeks to digitize records of Indian migrants and conduct pre-departure orientation to make the workers aware of their rights under the law.
    • It also offers insurance covers, skill upgradation and training for those aspiring for overseas employment opportunities.
    • It also proposes stronger mechanisms to regulate recruiters by maintaining and updating lists of blacklisted and fraudulent agencies, providing accreditation, and giving ratings to employers, etc.
    • The bill also envisions penalties for agencies, individual recruiters as well as migrant workers who lack valid permits to travel to work and settle abroad and impose fines up to Rs. 50,000.


Way forward

  • Attention needs to be given on the women migrant workforce, largely limited to GCC countries and also to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries to some extent.
  • The Government should comprehensively assess the situation of migrant women and create women-centric, rights-based policies.



The COVID-19 pandemic has rerouted global migration patterns, restructured migratory corridors, and exposed the untold vulnerabilities and miseries of international migrant labour. Hence, the Government of India should revisit its policies in the post-pandemic migratory scenario by engaging all stakeholders and by passing the Emigration Bill 2021.


Source – The Hindu


QUESTION – Although being the largest migrant-sending and remittance-receiving country, India is yet to develop a comprehensive migration policy. Discuss the issue in brief.