Migration of Indian workers to countries in the European Union (EU) is set to become easier with the government initiating a process to facilitate development of legal migration between India and the EU.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) and the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) was signed in the Capital on Tuesday.
The new MoU on Regional Dialogue and Facilitating Managed and Legal Migration between India and the European Union will aim at facilitating development of legal migration, enhancing regional cooperation on legal migration management and enhancing dissemination of information relating to employment opportunities in EU countries.
"India is one of the handful of leading countries in the world when it comes to overseas workers," IOM Director General Brunson McKinley said following the signing of the accord.
"It is one of the reasons for India's dynamism and prosperity."
Stating that the MoU calls for the establishment of a project implementation unit (PIU) in India, McKinley said, "We have been working on this diligently for many, many years. It will go a long way in helping India's migrant workers."
He said that the PIU will take up the following tasks on a priority basis: training sessions for workers and mutual capacity building; setting up of an overseas workers' resource centre in India; and import of Indian professionals to select EU countries like Italy, Spain and Ireland.
The regional dialogue of the IOM involves 11 Asian labour supplying nations - India, China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan and Afghanistan - and five destination countries in the EU: Italy, Germany, Britain, Ireland and Spain.
Stating that IOM has signed similar agreements with several other countries, McKinley said, "But this agreement with India is very important for us. After all, very few countries have taken up steps like setting up a separate ministry for ensuring smooth and legal migration of workers."
At present most skilled and semi-skilled workers in India migrate to the Gulf nation. However, this project, McKinley said, would help facilitate diversification of the migration process to the EU, a region where the future is likely to throw up major opportunities in the years to come.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said that the MoU is in keeping with the MOIA's goals to facilitate legal and smooth migration of Indian workers.
Stating that migrant workers are assets to the countries they belong to, the minister said, "Around $270 billion are sent by way of remittances by migrant workers to their respective countries. Of this, around $200 billion go to developing nations."
He said that migration has given better opportunities for the poor to earn their bread and butter from other places.
"However, we should ensure that they are not treated as second class citizens in the countries they go to. A project like this (with IOM) will ensure that overseas workers are respected wherever they are," he added.
Stating that MOIA was looking to promote organised migration to labour seeking countries in the EU, the minister cited Poland as an example.
"On our invitation, Poland's labour minister came to India and we signed a pact to promote migration of Indian workers to Poland, a country with a booming economy but facing a labour shortage.
"This agreement with IOM will help in this process," he said.
Established in 1951, the Geneva-headquartered IOM is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental partners. As of now, it has got 120 members and 20 observer nations, including India.