Remarks by Secretary (CPV & OIA) at the launch of ICM-IOM collaborative project on "Strengthening data-informed and migrant -centered migration management frameworks in India"

Posted on: March 23, 2021 | Back | Print

Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to join the virtual launch of the ICM-IOM project on ‘Strengthening data-informed and migrant-centred migration management frameworks in India’. This joint study will focus on (a) best practices in international migration data management to strengthen evidence-based policy making and (b) explore new migration corridors for Indian workers and professionals, especially in Europe. I congratulate ICM and IOM, for preparing this excellent project, and convey my best wishes to the two energetic teams for its smooth and successful completion. We hope the joint project will provide valuable inputs and assist policy formulation on international migration.

As you have seen, international migration has been in churn in recent times, with both challenges and opportunities. Rapid technological transformation, consequent changes in business environment and economic slowdown led to changes in demand patterns for migrants. The Covid pandemic added to the challenges and hastened the need to seek a new normal.

As policy makers, we recognise that international migration is a flow that adds to national development efforts, on both sides, and generally benefits the migrants. Our wish is to develop an evidence-based strategy for our traditional priorities of safe and legal migration and we wish to add new priorities of sustainable and smart migration, that address recent developments and challenges. From our perspective, coordination with stakeholders, learning from global best practices, negotiating enabling mechanisms with foreign governments and providing supportive legislation are essential for the solution.

The Global Compact for Migration (GCM) encompasses key dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner. Further, regional mechanisms such as the Colombo Process and the Abu Dhabi Dialogue promote cooperation on labour migration. For India, this is further supplemented by bilateral agreements and understandings with partner countries; in the GCC, we have labour agreements and with others in East Asia and Europe, we have Mobility Partnerships and Social Security Agreements. Of late, we have also engaged with our partners in skill mapping and integration of migration platforms to provide further transparency, security and efficiency to migration flows.

The Covid pandemic highlighted the gaps in the available evidence base and the need to innovate and develop upon existing data systems. But even before this crisis, as we discussed earlier, we saw the emergence of a new terrain of shifting global economies and new technologies that rendered it necessary to strengthen migration management frameworks to improve labour migration opportunities for aspiring Indian migrants. This partnership between IOM and our think-tank ICM, will explore global best practices in data management and will boost the availability of timely, accessible, reliable, disaggregated and comparable data which is essential to produce informed policies, action and public opinion.

The eMigrate platform has been MEA’s flagship project in which the data of Indian nationals holding Emigration Check Required (ECR) category passports and emigrating for employment purpose to any notified ECR country was captured. It provided a comprehensive and online database of emigrant workers, Recruiting Agents, Foreign Employers and Insurance Agencies to the Protector General of Emigrants and Missions. e-Migrate was aimed at making the emigration process faster and transparent with online authentication/ verification of credentials of all stakeholders. In addition, e- Migrate also included voluntary data of those persons going for employment under Emigration Check Not Required (ECNR) category. However, even such a mechanism obviously had its shortcomings. We are thus currently embarked on a mission to upgrade e-Migrate to version 2.0, a project that will automate the current emigration processes and eco-system and expand its data capture abilities. The Ministry has also undertaken extensive consultations with stakeholders for a new Migration Management Bill, which will be introduced shortly to provide transformational e-governance for migrants with the vision to facilitate the migration procedures to a simple, transparent, orderly and humane process.

Accurate and harmonized data and innovative research are essential for the development of evidence-based migrant-centred policies. Data gives us a sense of demands in destination countries and projected flow of migrants. Data capture allows us to strengthen our intervention and make evidence based policies. The involvement of IOM Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC), in this project, will certainly be an asset in this efforts.

This discussion comes at an opportune time as we focus on migrant welfare in our post-Covid recovery efforts. When India carried out the largest repatriation effort in the world, under the Vande Bharat Mission, we worked to ensure their safety and well-being. Data collation efforts by our Embassies and Consulates played a crucial role is tracing stranded migrants, provide necessary amenities and facilitate their safe return. Data coordination was crucial and was an all-of-the-Government effort. The launch of the SWADES portal (Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support), aimed to create a database of the repatriated migrant workers alongside their skill qualifications, was one such endeavour, a collaborative effort undertaken by NSDC, MEA and others in the government. I am happy NSDC is present at this event today.

Technological and economic transformations emphasised the role of skills and its importance to international migrants. The skill mapping exercise undertaken with UAE is being extended to other GCC partners. We feel it can be extended even further in the new situation as we explore better job prospects for our migrants in both traditional and new destinations. Prior recognition of skills and certification can not only efficiently fulfil the demands of foreign employers, but can also provide more secure and remunerative employment to our workers. It is encouraging that we have also been able to enter into an agreement for Special Skilled Workers with Japan and are negotiating similar arrangements with others. Such arrangements demonstrate the need for specialised training, both for specific skills as well as for languages, to take advantage of new opportunities.

I am pleased that IOM Special Envoy to India and his team, who were our partners in our initial Pre Departure Orientation Training (PDOT), are our partners again as we venture into new areas. As for PDOT, we are expanding it in many ways, not least by the opening of new PDOT centres across the country and also by going online. Moreover, we are engaged in designing new content to provide more country specific and sector specific inputs such that it empowers our migrant workers. The role of NSDC and industry-level skill centres will be crucial in this endeavour.

Our interactions with stakeholders has also allowed us to make sense of numbers and new trends. For instance, e-Migrate, as we already discussed, needs to be supplemented for better data availability and management. Similarly, while the GCC region remains the mainstay of our migration flows, we find interest from other countries that seek migrants from India.

These could emerge as new destinations. I am particularly pleased that the European Union, which is our partner on Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility (CAMM), is present today. We would like to organise new corridors in an orderly manner, in consultation with our partners, such that we can shape our shared destinies, with reliable and sector-focused data and analysis. As economies across the world recover from the impact of the Covid pandemic, it is more important than ever to explore, harness and formulate evidence-based policies that meet migrant objectives and national priorities.

I am happy that gender related aspects find focus in this project. Achieving a gender balanced migration strategy is a key priority for the government. I hope we shall further mainstream gender sensitive migration policies as well as ensure our migrant workers are equipped with the right skills and tools for the emerging destinations.

For India, the interests of our migrant workers and professionals are paramount. We place the migrant at the centre and provide an enabling environment in which he or she can make informed and empowered deisions that promote personal advancement and serve the objective of national development. This project, we hope, will feed into the Government’s efforts to bolster migration governance and strengthen data management initiatives. I look forward with keen interest to the project outputs and wish it great success.

New Delhi
March 23, 2021