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Minister leaves for diaspora tour

Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi leaves for a six-day tour to Austria, Switzerland and Germany to meet the Indian diaspora there.

india Updated: Sep 07, 2006 13:20 IST

Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi leaves early on Friday for a six-day tour to Austria, Switzerland and Germany to strengthen bonds with the Indian diaspora in these countries.

The minister will address various Indian community meetings in the three countries, discuss the problems faced by the diaspora and will also seek the communities' support for India's development.

In Vienna, he will attend programmes organised by the Vienna Malayalee Association, including the Onam celebrations. The minister is also likely to meet representatives of other Indian communities in Vienna. Onam, Kerala's harvest festival, was celebrated Tuesday in the state.

There are around 12,000 Indians - mostly Keralites - in Austria.

"In all the three countries, I will be meeting different NRI groups with whom I will discuss the problems they face. We would like to know what the Indian government can do for them and how the Indian community in Europe can support India," Ravi told IANS.

"The people there want to know about the OCI (overseas citizenship of India) cards and PIO (Persons of Indian Origin) cards. I will brief them about these," he said.

PIOs of certain categories who migrated from India and acquired citizenship of a foreign country other than Pakistan and Bangladesh are eligible for the grant of OCI as long as their home countries allow dual citizenship in some form or the other under their local laws.

According to Ravi, the Indian community in Switzerland has complained about the new birth registration law under which the authorities want parents to submit their birth certificates. "It apparently creates trouble for some Indians there as they do not possess a certificate."

"I am trying to get appointments with the officials in Zurich to raise this issue," he said.

The minister would be in Zurich on September 10.

On September 11, Ravi would proceed to Germany, where he will spend two days. He will meet members of the Indian community in Cologne Sep 11 and in Frankfurt the following day to "interact with the people and discuss their problems".

Germany has 25,000 Indians and 10,000 PIOs, while in Switzerland there are 8,400 PIOs and 4,800 Indian citizens.