Ministry of External Affairs of the Republic of India

11/30/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/30/2021 06:56

Statement by Secretary (CPV & OIA) at 112th Session of IOM Council on “Impact of COVID-19 on Borders, Migration and Mobility: Learning Lessons and Preparing for the Future

Director General
Ladies and gentlemen

During the last two years, when the Covid 19 pandemic raged across the world, many countries came to realize the value of migrant workers and their contributions to the development of their economies and societies. It is now time to acknowledge the role and contributions of these migrants and to mainstream migration policy as a positive element in our development agenda.

2. We have seen that when global outages take place, it is the vulnerable that suffer the most in the disruptions that follow. With reduced economic activity, migrant workers are often among the most vulnerable. Even those who provided essential services and health care faced the negative impact. Further, the international labour market was adversely impacted by travel restrictions and border closures as well as disruption in economic activities.

3. Recognizing the potential health and economic impact of Covid-19, India responded to protect migrant workers, stranded in destination countries across the world. Government organised the 'Vande Bharat Mission' from 7th May 2020 to facilitate their safe repatriation. This was the largest and the most complex exercise undertaken by the government, with our Embassies working in tandem with host governments and community organizations to support every Indian in distress. More than 2.5 million Indians in distress abroad were repatriated home and over 275,000 Indians overseas were provided assistance.

4. Migrant returnees often require support for livelihood opportunities to sustain themselves. An all of Government effort was undertaken. We also launched the SWADES portal (Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support). This skill mapping exercise involved our National Skill Development Corporation and the information collated was shared with State Governments, employment bureaus and Indian & foreign companies for a seamless employment channel with identification of skill sets.

5. The Covid experience made it clear that greater coordination and cooperation between State authorities was necessary for mutually beneficial options in the migration ecosystem. More stable and transparent mechanisms were needed for our traditional destinations in the Gulf. We engaged in discussions for new generation labour agreements and commenced work on integration of our eMigrate platform with those of our GCC partners. This would promote transparency, empower future migrants, stabilize migration flows and promote safe and legal migration.

6. Further, new migration corridors were emerging. In pursuit of better migration management, the government engaged and established institutional arrangements for labour migration and mobility of professionals with new and emerging destinations. The India-EU Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility provided better understanding leading to mutually beneficial mobility partnerships with several EU countries, including Denmark, France, Germany, Portugal, and negotiations with others. The recent Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement with the United Kingdom encouraged the orderly mobility of skills and talents that provide benefits to both sides. The Memorandum of Cooperation on Specified Skilled Workers with Japan provided a mechanism for the sending and receiving of Indian skilled workers toJapan in 14 specified sectors in a regulated and safe manner.

7. We were cognizant that awareness generation and empowerment of prospective migrants was the key to achieving the goal of safe and legal migration. Our pre departure orientation training and skills programmes aimed to improve awareness and enhance potential earnings.

8. Within the country, we simplified the process of emigration through effective e-governance reaching out to the masses, simplification and digitalization of passport services, upgrading of eMigrate platform - a one stop source of information on overseas employment, strengthened grievance redressal and developed welfare instruments for vulnerable migrants. Further, recognizing that future of work would be determined by automation and digital technology, we developed modules to prepare our workforce for competency demands of the future, both for skills and destinations.

9. The pandemic has shown that the world will be safe only when each one of us is safe. India was in the forefront of Covid cooperation measures from the outset. India provided medical teams, Covid medicines, testing kits and humanitarian supplies to over 150 countries. We provided over 70million vaccine doses to 93 countries and to UN peacekeepers and health workers. Now, with a capacity of 5 billion vaccine doses, depending on demand, we are ready to be effective suppliers in the coming days. With relaxation in travel restrictions, mutual recognition of vaccination certification is needed as a global endeavor. Our CoWin vaccination certification, based on QR code and secure database, has been recognized by 99 countries.

10. Migration can only be managed collectively, multilateral understanding is necessary and bilateral partnerships are essential. The Global Compact on Migration and regional groupings such as the Abu Dhabi Dialogue and Colombo Process play an important role, not only to disseminate awareness but also in identifying and sharing of best practices. To this end, I wish to mention our collaboration with International Organisation for Migration on a project for strengthened data management towards evidence-based migration policy making.

11. Let me take this opportunity to acknowledge IOM's efforts over seven decades to make our world a better place for migrant workers. IOM's role in leading the negotiations on Global Compact on Migration and balancing a broad vision on the rights of migrants while States retain sovereignty in border management, deserves mention. I would also wish to congratulate IOM for being a vital source of information for understanding current migration trends and pressing global issues. I had the opportunity to address the International Dialogue on Migration 2021 last month when we discussed the impact of the pandemic on migration management systems and identified potential areas for future collaboration. The long-lasting consequences of the pandemic necessitated the formulation of fresh alternatives. It is essential to continue enhancing migration governance through dynamic frameworks as the world moves from the response to the recovery phase. India looks forward to closer engagement and cooperation with IOM and all national partners in this regard in the days ahead.

Thank you.