Indian expats in the UAE have been widely critical of the Indian government’s decision to issue orange passports to people who require emigration clearance for travel to a group of 18 countries, mostly in the Gulf region.
The Indian Foreign Ministry said last week that people who have graduated high school, or are among the 2 percent of Indians who pay income tax, and do not require emigration checks, will be issued with blue passports. That excludes the vast majority of Indian migrant workers in the Gulf.
“I don’t understand why the color has changed. How can any country discriminate against its own people on the basis of education? We are citizens of a democratic country and such a decision is against the basic foundations of democracy,” said one 42-year-old mason, who has been working in Dubai for over a decade.
Sharjah-based K.V. Shamsudheen, who heads the Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust, has written a letter to Sushma Swaraj, the Indian minister for external affairs, saying that this move will lead to discrimination.
“Segregating citizens this way is not acceptable. There will be a different line at the airport and other countries may consider a group of our own citizens as inferior,” Shamsudheen wrote.
“The idea is equivalent to creating an upper class and a lower class. There is no need for such a change. No developed country has such a system,” said Biju Soman of the Indian Association Sharjah.
Oommen Chandy, a member of the legislative assembly and former chief minister of the Indian state of Kerala, has written a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that the decision will lead to problems for Indian expats, especially blue-collar workers in Gulf countries.
“The decision is unfortunate as it will (classify) two different types of citizens, one with education and one without; this results in discrimination against our citizens. I am afraid that it may lead to insecurity among our citizens,” he said.
“The moment an orange passport holder lands in a foreign country, he will be treated as a second-class citizen and it will result in mental harassment to our honorable citizens,” Chandy wrote in his letter.
“According to available sources, nearly 15 percent of the 2.5 million Kerala diaspora (did not graduate high school, and are) thus qualified for orange color passport only. In other states it would be more than that,” he said.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) report on Indian migrant workers, India sends the largest number of migrants to GCC countries, accounting for more than a quarter of the region’s total migrant population in 2013.
The current annual recorded flow of low-skilled labor migrants from India to GCC countries is around 600,000 to 800,000 workers per year.