INDIA: Amidst Protests, Government withdraws decision on Discriminatory Passports Impacting Migrant Workers

 

On 12th January 2018, the Ministry of External Affairs, the Government of India announced doing away printing of family and address information in the passport and also a new jacket colour based on Emigration Check Required Status. The proposal was to issue orange colour passports to citizens who fall under the category of Emigration Check Required (ECR) and remaining shall continue to use deep blue colour passports.

This announcement was viewed as highly discriminatory and resulted in widespread condemnation and protests. The ECR category largely includes migrant workers from low skilled categories. The BWI and its affiliated trade unions also raised this issue and petitioned the Government. Finally on 30th January 2018, Government backtracked on its decision to maintain status quo and not to issue “discriminatory orange passports” for ECR category. This move otherwise would have affected migrant workers in 17 countries (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Libya, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia & Iraq).

 

Welcoming Government’s decision to reverse its prejudiced move, Dr. R.C. Khuntia, Chair Indian Affiliates Council and BWI World Council Member commented “The trade unions had strongly opposed Government’s announcement to have orange passport for ECR category migrants on various platforms as it was blatantly discriminatory and would have made citizens in the ECR category to feel inferior in terms of economic and educational status. The Government should spend more resources and extend support to activities and programs leading to safe migration.”