Emigration laws are all set for a sea change with the Ministry of External Affairs planning to table the proposed Emigration Bill, 2021 in Parliament in the current monsoon session.
The proposed legislation that will replace the extant Emigration Act of 1983 will be crucial for Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) especially from Kerala as the provisions cover labour migration and exploitation, remittances, student mobility and human trafficking.
Comments and suggestions on various aspects of the draft Bill were solicited between June 1 and July 3. However, following requests from various sections of the public for an extension of time, the deadline for receiving comments was extended by two weeks till July 17.
As per the proposal, the Centre will establish a Bureau of Emigration Policy and Planning with a Chief of Emigration Policy and Planning and Bureau of Emigration Administration with a Chief Emigration Officer to ensure the welfare and protection of the emigrants.
Also, the plan is to set up emigration check post with an officer of the Centre or State government under the control and supervision of the Chief Emigration Officer.
Of the 32 million NRIs and Persons of Indian Origin, about 44.59 lakh reside in the United States, 34.25 lakh in United Arab Emirates (UAE), 29.87 lakh in Malaysia, 25.94 in Saudi Arabia, 18.92 in the United Kingdom, 16.89 lakh in Canada, 15.05 lakh in Sri Lanka, 14.09 lakh in South Africa and 10.90 lakh in Kuwait.
The approximate share of Keralites in the Gulf Cooperation Council nations is: UAE ( 8.3 lakh); Saudi Arabia (4.87 lakh); Qatar (1.85 lakh), Oman (1.82 lakh); Kuwait (1.27 lakh) and Bahrain (81,000). However, more than eight lakh expatriates returned to Kerala following the COVID-19-induced lockdown, job loss and localisation programmes in Saudi and Oman.
India figures on the list of countries with the largest country of origin international migrants and also the largest recipient of remittances. As such, the Centre plans to establish nodal committees in States and Union Territories with a Principal Secretary as chairperson. The committees will have representatives from the Labour, Non Resident Indians and Skill departments.
The Bureau of Emigration Administration will maintain a digitised record of all Indian emigrants sourced from the Bureau of Immigration and Human Resources organisations as well as black listed foreign employers and fraudulent manpower recruitment agencies.
The proposed legislation will also maintain registration of human resources agencies, validity and renewal and cancellation of a certificate. Besides, authorities will be empowered to have certain powers of the civil court.
The establishment of a labour and welfare wing and emigrants welfare committee at the Indian Embassies and Consulates and establishment of Sahayata Kendras by Indian Mission and Post to cater to all issues concerning overseas employment and immigration of Indian emigrants have been proposed in the new Bill.
Besides, offences and penalties, powers to search, seize, detain, arrest under the provisions of the Customs Act and power to prohibit emigration due to epidemic and civil disturbances.