Issue of Smuggling of migrants

Ques. “Smuggling of migrants is a highly profitable business with low risk of detection”, while analysing the given statement describe the role and working of the govt. to address the issue of Smuggling of migrants.

People smuggling (also called human smuggling) is “the facilitation, transportation, attempted transportation or illegal entry of a person or persons across an international border, in violation of one or more countries’ laws, either clandestinely or through deception, such as the use of fraudulent documents”. People smuggling generally takes place with the consent of the person or persons being smuggled, and common reasons for individuals seeking to be smuggled include employment and economic opportunity, personal and/or familial betterment, and escape from persecution or conflict.

Two major initiatives by the govt. of India to address the issue of Smuggling of migrants:

Emigration Act, 1983 – The Emigration Act, enacted to consolidate and amend the law relating to emigration of Indian citizens, applies only to ‘recruitment’ and ‘recruiting agents.’ Registration and obtaining permits from a State Protector of Emigrants working under a Protector General of Emigrants under the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs are essential under the Act. Without obtaining any such registration certificate or a valid permit, no recruiting agent or employer can legally send any person abroad.

The Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Act, 2012 –

  • It aims to check and curb travel agents’ illegal and fraudulent activities and penalise those involved in organised human smuggling rackets.
  • This law has many noteworthy features — it defines the terms human smuggling and travel agent; it provides for a licensing regime for travel agents and debars persons from operating without a licence; it gives power of search, seizure and arrest to magistrates and police officials, it provides for reasonable compensation to be paid to aggrieved persons by the travel agent. It also specifies the punishment for offences and authorises courts to decide whether any illegally acquired property is liable to be confiscated. Cheating, the Act says, shall have the same meaning as under the Indian Penal Code.
  • Dishonest misrepresentation with the intention of wrongful gain or deception, cheating or allurement for the activities such as- obtaining education, work, travel permits for tourism, cultural entertainment or musical shows, medical treatment, spreading or preaching religion, participating in sport tournaments, issuing advertisements for travel, holding seminars and lectures to promote emigration, is punishable under the Act.

Drawbacks/loopholes in addressing the issue:

  • Neither the word ‘travel agent’ nor the phrase ‘human smuggling’ are defined or identified in the Emigration Act. It neither recognises the proliferating business of human trading, nor does it seek to check or punish such activities.
  • THE Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Act that seeks to regulate the profession of travel agents to check their illegal and fraudulent activities and mal-practices, is limited to the state of Punjab only as it is enacted by the Punjab govt. and not a central act.
  • The key focus of the legislation is on human smuggling as opposed to human trafficking. The distinction is crucial. Human smuggling facilitates illegal entry of people from one country to another. It has a cross border element of voluntary cooperation without any coercion or undue influence. In contrast to human trafficking, there are no victims in human smuggling. Human trafficking entails slavery and possibly has no international element

Areas of concern & reform

  1. Need to enact a Central legislation to check illegal trafficking, human smuggling and thriving unethical immigration businesses.
  2. Imperative need for a consolidated work permit visa regime in India for inward foreign migration especially for highly skilled foreign workers which could also be a good source of revenue.
  3. Spreading of awareness and education of the pitfalls of illegal immigration.
  4. Need to establish managed migration channels.

Smuggling of migrants is a highly profitable business with low risk of detection. For criminals, it is increasingly attractive to deal in human merchandise and this business of death is becoming more and more organised. India needs to check this global menace. There is an urgent need for Parliament to pass a law against human smuggling. Piecemeal State legislations with limited ambit of application will restrict the scope to only State borders. A Central law is therefore the composite solution.

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