Minister of State for External Affairs V. K. Singh on Saturday asked states to come down heavily on illegal recruiting agents to put a complete stop to illegal immigration.
Voicing concern over the illegal agents carrying on their activities, he asked law enforcing authorities to come down hard on those misguiding and misleading people.
Addressing the first 'Videsh Sampark', an outreach programme organised by the Ministry for greater coordination with the states, he termed illegal agents as the "biggest problem" which ministry had not been able to overcome so far and sought assistance of states to come down "very heavily" on this.
Stressing that the Centre and states would have to work together to curb illegal immigration, he said this was the only way to ensure that people don't get into any trouble after landing in foreign countries.
He said most of the problems of migrant workers in Gulf countries was because of the "kafala" system these countries follow and which was being used in such a way that a worker becomes more like a slave. He pointed out how the "kafeel" keep passports with them and get all rights over workers, who can't even leave the country without a no-objection certificate from them.
Noting the ministry has made Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for states to take action on complaints against illegal agents, he asked the states to make suggestions, if they feel it needs to be made more elaborate.
He said registered agents nominate certain people in various states, who become sub-agents and they in turn nominate sub sub-agents who are illegal agents.
The minister also called for acting tough against those registered agents who enter into two different agreements with the employers in some countries, thus denying the people the minimum wages agreed upon by India with those countries.
He also asked state to scrutinise all Haj agents as there were lot of illegalities happening.
Singh advised all those going abroad to register on the e-migration portal where all recruiting agents and a large number of employers are registered with complete details like the conditions of employment.
On those who landed in trouble in different countries, he said the ministry would devise means through Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) to allow missions to provide legal assistance.
He said steps were also being taken to bring back those who were jailed in those countries.
Singh recalled that when officials met 400 Indians jailed in Saudi Arabia, nobody wanted to come back as they were all happy in jails, where they were getting good food and place to live.
"There are social and individual problems. We will try and bring back all those who want to come back," he added.
Telangana's NRI Affairs Minister K.T. Rama Rao suggested that the Centre enter into agreements with the Gulf countries to ensure that those jailed there are allowed to return and serve the remaining jail term in India.
Rao said blue-collar workers were facing lot of problems in Middle East and urged the Centre to take up the issue strongly with these countries.
The Telangana minister also spoke about the problems in bringing back the bodies of the workers who died in Gulf countries and urged the government to negotiate with these countries to send the mortal remains back as a human gesture.
He also requested the Centre to facilitate setting up of the Saudi consulate in Hyderabad.