India to issue ‘discriminatory’ passports to migrant workers

India plans to issue orange-covered passports to some migrant workers, not the regular blue passport, pictured above. (AFP)
Updated 17 January 2018

India to issue ‘discriminatory’ passports to migrant workers

LONDON: The Indian government has drawn widespread criticism after it revealed a plan to introduce orange-colored passport jackets for some migrant workers. 
Legal experts and campaigners called the plan discriminatory and said it could increase the vulnerability of workers to being duped by middlemen who promise them jobs, often in the Arabian Gulf. 
Last week the country’s Ministry of External Affairs announced that migrant workers who need emigration clearance to travel to 18 countries would soon be issued with orange passports, instead of India’s traditional navy blue passport. 
Emigration clearance is required by those travelers who have not passed the equivalent of 10th grade at school.
“Passport holders with ECR (Emigration Check Required) status would be issued a passport with orange color passport jacket and those with non-ECR status would continue to get a blue passport,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told Reuters on Friday.
The new orange-covered passports are supposed to protect vulnerable laborers from exploitation abroad.
The Foreign Ministry told The Washington Post the change will make it easier for immigration and law enforcement officers to spot travelers who require vetting before they leave for certain countries. The theory is it would also make human trafficking more difficult as border officials would know who needs extra permission to travel.
The plan has been roundly criticized, including by the leader of the opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, who tweeted: “Treating India’s migrant workers like second class citizens is completely unacceptable.”

S. Irudaya Rajan, professor at the Center for Development Studies in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, from where many migrant workers originate, said: 
“You cannot divide people on the basis of educational qualifications; it’s discriminatory.
“An orange cover shows a person is not well educated, and makes them vulnerable to exploitation. These are already vulnerable people who need more protection, not discrimination,” he told Reuters.
India is the world’s largest exporter of migrant labor. 
There are an estimated six million Indian migrants in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman. 
Some  are duped by job agents, and trapped in low paying jobs with few benefits or protections.
The workers are crucial to the Indian economy, with expats sending home $69 billion in 2015, making it the top nation for remittances, according to the World Bank.
The Indian government is still to release details of the plan, including a timeline for implementation.
“The government could argue that these passports are for the workers’ protection, but to a worker it may not seem that way,” Sehjo Singh, a director at advocacy group ActionAid India, told Reuters.
“The government must make clear how this system will work in favor of the workers.”

Philippine, Kuwaiti officials meet amid labor ban

Updated 13 min 43 sec ago

Philippine, Kuwaiti officials meet amid labor ban

  • The meeting took place days after the Philippines announced a complete ban on the deployment of new workers to Kuwait

MANILA: Philippine and Kuwaiti officials on Sunday held talks in the wake of a ban imposed by Manila on Filipinos working in the Gulf state.

Abdullah D. Mama-o, President Rodrigo Duterte’s adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ (OFW) concerns, met with Kuwait Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah to discuss bilateral ties and how to overcome the crisis.

The meeting took place days after the Philippines announced a complete ban on the deployment of new workers to Kuwait following the killing of Jeanelyn Villavende.

A forensic examination conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation on Villavende’s body showed “clear indications of sexual abuse,” and signs of physical abuse dating back weeks before her death.

Villavende’s employer and his wife, allegedly the perpetrators in the Filipino maid’s killing, are now behind bars in Kuwait.

During the meeting between Mama-o and Al-Jarallah, “the Filipino official praised Kuwait for the legal procedures the country has taken to address the issue,” Kuwait’s official news agency KUNA reported.

Officials from both countries are scheduled to hold further meetings next month to resolve the crisis.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait rescued another Filipino maid, Delia Solomon, who accused her employers of mistreatment.

“While a distressed OFW’s plea was going viral (on) social media yesterday, our Kuwait PE (Philippine Embassy) worked quietly on extracting her,” Foreign Undersecretary Brigido Dulay tweeted on Sunday.

“We are happy to report that she is now sheltered in our embassy and we’re working on reuniting her with her loved ones next week.”

Prior to his talks with Al-Jarallah, Mama-o on Saturday met with more than 100 members of the Filipino community in Kuwait.

Issues discussed included the Philippine government’s contingency plan amid tensions in the Middle East, and the decision of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration’s governing board to impose a ban on the deployment of newly hired OFWs bound for Kuwait.

Mama-o, who was accompanied by other Philippine officials, said the Duterte administration will exert all efforts to safeguard the welfare of all Filipinos in the Middle East.

During the Filipino community meeting, Chargé d’Affaires Noordin Pendosina Lomondot assured Filipinos in Kuwait that the embassy is preparing for any scenario in case the situation in the region does not improve.

The official gave Filipino community leaders details of the embassy’s contingency plan, such as possible evacuation routes and the names of area coordinators.