A screenshot of Ministry of External Affairs twitter account Image Credit: Twitter

Dubai: A new draft law in India has proposed the mandatory registration of Indians going abroad for work, a move that had recently faced a setback due to protests from Indian expats.

The draft Emigration Bill 2019, which aims to ensure the welfare and protection of emigrants, proposes “mandatory registration of all categories of Indian nationals proceeding for overseas employment as well as students pursuing higher studies abroad.”

“[The] registration/intimation is proposed to be technology/digital platform-driven so as to keep emigration a swift, efficient and hassle-free process without causing any inconvenience to our workforce and students pursuing higher studies abroad,” the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) stated while seeking public comments on the draft bill on social media.

“Necessary provisions have been incorporated to exempt certain categories in this regard on a need basis,” it added, while describing the salient features of the bill that is slated to replace the Emigration Act, 1983, and had been delayed since 2011.

The ministry said the provisions regarding mandatory registration by students and Indian nationals working abroad are aimed at assisting them in times of distress and emergency and putting in place an effective emigration management framework.

“The bill aims at optimum utilisation of existing resources and manpower rather than creating new elaborate structures,” the ministry stated, indicating that the existing online recruitment portal e-Migrate may be used for the registration.

In November last year, the government was forced to defer a controversial decision to make a similar online registration through the e-Migrate portal mandatory for ECNR (emigration clearance not required) passport holders flying to 18 countries, including the UAE, for employment.

As reported first by Gulf News, the ministry said the registration, which was scheduled to be effective from January 1, was put on hold “due to difficulties raised by the community.”

Gulf News had highlighted the concerns expressed by Indian expatriates after an official said that the rule would be applicable to those who are already working in these countries when they make their first visit to India after January 1.

They were to register online at least 24 hours prior to flying back to their country of residence.

Indian expats and community groups questioned the legality of the registration rule, under which passengers could be offloaded if they fail to comply.

Many expats had questioned the arbitrary decision to prevent passengers who do not require emigration clearance from flying, if they fail to register, and sought an immediate revision of the rule.

Silent on implementation

Though the new bill has also proposed online registration of all Indians going abroad for employment and education, it is silent on the implementation of the proposal and the consequences of failure to abide by the bill when it becomes an act.

The ministry has sought public feedback on the bill that also proposes to constitute an Emigration Management Authority to ensure the overall welfare and protection of emigrants.

It also spells out new regulations and strict penalties for recruitment agencies to prevent exploitation, human trafficking, illegal recruitment and illicit trafficking of drugs.

Last week, a parliamentary panel had urged the government to establish a concrete channel for redressal of grievances of migrant Indian workers and finalise the draft Emigration Bill for presenting before the Parliament.

The winter session of the Parliament ended on Wednesday. It is not clear when the ministry will finalise the draft bill after receiving suggestions and table it before the parliament.