Visit Visas Misused for Illegal Migration: Minister

New Delhi, Nov 29 (IANS) Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi Monday called for a check on the "misuse of visit visas", citing it as one of the main reasons for illegal migration to Arab countries.

"The agents fleece the workers, issuing them these visas and once the visa expires, they become more or less like indentured labourers. They get taken to the interiors of most Arab countries to work under unfavourable conditions. Therefore, there should be a check on the misuse of visit visas to prevent this misfortune," Ravi said here.

Appreciating the awareness programme by the ministry of overseas Indian affairs (MOIA), Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur said: "A simple but important initiative recently taken by the ministry is to give wide publicity through the audio visual and print media to educate the people about the realities of working in these countries. The basic problem is about the lack of information, illiteracy and the role of the agents at the ground level."

Ravi also stressed on the need to employ lawyers for Indian prisoners overseas.

"We should give them legal help and employ lawyers, there are prisoners continuing to be in jail despite completing the term. We should use the money from the welfare fund... nobody should suffer from lack of money," Ravi said.

He said the sponsor-arranged visa-system for workers is being done through unauthorised agents, and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council - which include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates - are considering abolishing it.

The two-day conference, organised by MOIA, is being attended by heads of Indian missions of 11 countries, apart from officials from the external affairs ministry, home ministry, and representatives of states which see a huge number of people working abroad, including Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

The conference will discuss issues relating to overseas Indian workers, both at the source and destination points and how the institutional engagement between Indian missions and other stakeholders can be strengthened for a better regulation of labour mobility.

The conference will also review various welfare measures at the mission level and discuss new policy initiatives.



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