Orange passport for India’s migrant workers ‘institutionalizes discrimination’

Updated 18 January 2018

Orange passport for India’s migrant workers ‘institutionalizes discrimination’

NEW DELHI: Indian government’s recent decision to issue orange passports to people who require emigration checks has been widely criticized by concerned citizens who have described the new rules as discriminatory.

The Indian Foreign Ministry said on Friday that those who need emigration clearance for travel to a group of 18 countries, mostly in the Gulf region, would be issued with orange passports and those who do not would receive blue ones.

People who have graduated high school, or are among the 2 percent of Indians who pay income tax, do not require emigration checks. But the vast majority of unskilled workers do.

“You are making a mockery of the people who are illiterate and come from the marginalized section of society,” said Professor Irudaya Rajan S. of Kerala’s Center for Development Studies (CDS). “It is an institutionalization of discrimination on the basis of education.”

According to Pew Research Center, 1 in 20 migrant workers worldwide are Indian-born. As of 2015, 15.6 million people born in India were living in other countries. India has been among the world’s top countries of origin for migrants since the UN started tracking those figures in 1990. A World Bank estimate says that India received about $69 billion in remittances in 2015 amounting to roughly three percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Data provided by the Indian Embassy in Doha reveals that between 2004 and 2017, around 3,154 Indian workers died in Qatar, with more than 200 workers dying each year from 2007 onwards.

“How will changing the color of the passport stop exploitation?” asked Rajan. “It’s not the right move. In the name of protection, you are exposing people to risk both inside and outside India. (This) is not going to help stop human trafficking and exploitation.”

Government sources say the scheme is supposed to prevent the exploitation of Indian workers abroad, although there has been no clear explanation as to how.

The government has claimed that the new passport scheme will make it easier for immigration officers to identify workers who require vetting before being allowed to travel to various countries. As the Washington Post reported, “The theory is this would also make human trafficking more difficult as border officials would immediately know which people need the extra permission to travel.”

But Rajan said, “It is sheer discrimination on the basis of the socio-economic status of the workers. The government argues that it wants to protect Indians who are vulnerable through this decision. The orange passport will make them much more vulnerable, as they are more easily identifiable.”

Pranay Kotasthane, a geopolitical analyst at the Bangalore-based think tank The Takshashila Institution, questioned the need for emigration clearance in the first place, and added that the “priority of the government should be to prevent exploitation of women and Indian workers abroad. There is no way the change in the color of the passport is going to do that.”

He told Arab News that “by changing the color of the passport, you are just systematizing more discrimination – one Indian gets one color of passport and another gets the other one. It’s not solving the problem. In fact this should be used as an opportunity by India to completely get rid of the emigration system that we have used since 1983.”

Rakesh Sinha, a member of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the paternal organization of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), defends the government’s decision, saying that “the move will act as a deterrent against human trafficking.”

However, leader of the opposition, Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi, said the move was “completely unacceptable” and that the government is “treating India’s migrant workers like second-class citizens.”

“This action demonstrates BJP’s discriminatory mind-set,” Gandhi added.

Europe lawmakers expelled as aid showdown intensifies

Updated 5 min 23 sec ago

Europe lawmakers expelled as aid showdown intensifies

  • Volunteer groups have begun meeting in ‘humanitarian camps’
CARACAS: Venezuela has expelled five visiting European lawmakers, an act opposition leader Juan Guaido branded “irrational” as his showdown with President Nicolas Maduro over the arrival of international aid intensifies.
The members of the European Parliament were being tossed out with no explanation, said Spanish MEP Esteban Gonzalez Pons, who led the group.
“We are being expelled from Venezuela. Our passports have been seized. They have not informed us of the reason for the expulsion,” Pons said.
The incident on Sunday is the latest point of tension between the international community and Maduro, who is in the grip of a power struggle with Guaido, the head of the National Assembly who proclaimed himself interim president last month.
Guaido has the backing of more than 50 countries including 30 in Europe.
Pons’ fellow Spaniards Jose Ignacio Salafranca and Gabriel Mato Adrover, as well as Esther de Lange of the Netherlands and Paulo Rangel of Portugal, were also expelled. All are members of the conservative European People’s Party (PPE).
Writing on Twitter, Guaido said the MEPs were being “deported by an isolated and increasingly irrational regime.”
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said the Europeans had “conspiratorial aims” and were sent back from the country’s main Maiquetia airport.
Earlier Sunday, Guaido set a goal of enlisting a million volunteers within a week to confront a government blockade that has kept tons of humanitarian aid, most of it from the US, from flowing into the country where residents can’t get enough food and say they are dying because of a shortage of medicines.
Guaido has given next Saturday — one month to the day after he proclaimed himself acting president — as the date for a showdown with Maduro over the aid.
Food supplies, hygiene kits and nutritional supplements have been stockpiled near the Venezuelan border in Cucuta, Colombia.
Additional storage centers are supposed to open this week in Brazil and Curacao, a Dutch island off Venezuela’s northern Caribbean coast.
“Our principal task is to reach a million volunteers by February 23,” Guaido said in a message to the 600,000 supporters who have signed up so far for the push to bring aid in.
Caravans of buses are being planned to carry volunteers to border entry points to meet and transport arriving cargo. Guaido has kept to himself how he plans to overcome the border barriers put up by the Venezuelan military, on Maduro’s orders.
Volunteer groups have begun meeting in “humanitarian camps” in several Venezuelan states to organize and prepare for the aid arrival.
They have started to identify the most vulnerable and have begun caring for the needy in accordance with Guaido’s promises.
Sometimes working under awnings or tents, doctors, nurses, dentists and pediatricians have attended to local residents who can receive donated medications.
Patients arrive with respiratory, skin or other ailments, and suffering from malnutrition.
An imploding economy has driven an estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans to migrate from the oil-rich country. Those who remain have been punished by hyperinflation that has put scarce food and medicine out of reach for many.
Andrea Hernandez, a physical therapy student whose mother is a pediatric nurse, is among those offering her help. Hernandez said her mother often “cried from seeing her patients die from lack of medicine.”
Yorger Maita, a helper from the aid group Rescate Venezuela, said that if foreign aid does not enter “other people will continue to die.”
Maduro, who denies the existence of a humanitarian crisis, dismisses the opposition moves as a “political show” and a cover for a US invasion.
US Senator Marco Rubio arrived Sunday in Cucuta for a first-hand look at the aid operations.
“Whoever prevents the entry of humanitarian aid is condemned to spend the rest of their lives fleeing international justice, because that is an international crime,” Rubio said in Spanish.
Three US military cargo planes delivered several dozen more tons of food assistance to Cucuta on Saturday.
Another US aircraft is due in Curacao from Miami on Tuesday, and a collection center for Brazilian aid will open Monday on the border, Guaido’s team said.
Venezuelans based in Miami held their own drive, putting together 1,000 crates of food to send to their homeland.
On Friday, Maduro instructed his army to prepare a “special deployment plan” for the 2,200-kilometer (1,370-mile) border with Colombia.
Guaido appealed for the military to let the aid pass.
Maduro has dismissed the humanitarian assistance as “crumbs” and “rotten and contaminated food” while blaming shortages of food and medicine on US sanctions.