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Conned by agents: 1 complaint a day from Indians abroad

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Conned by agents: 1 complaint a day from Indians abroad

(This story originally appeared in on Jun 23, 2021)

BENGALURU: As another season of Indians leaving for jobs and studies abroad begins, ministry of external affairs data reveals that on average at least one Indian complained every day of the last five years of having been lured fraudulently by illegal agents or fake agencies.

MEA data shows the government received 1,962 complaints from students or workers between 2016 and 2020; this number accounts for nearly 70% of all such complaints (2,869) made since 2012.

There is no break-up of how many complaints were from students and how many from workers.

While students are charged exorbitantly high fees, emigrants face denial of jobs and poor working conditions, among others, the ministry has submitted to the government.

Graphic.

Immigration expert Vikram Shroff of Nishith Desai Associates said that while the activities of a recruiting agent are regulated by law, illegal agents luring people have been a problem.

“India’s Emigration Act, 1983 requires the agency to obtain registration from the Protector General of Emigrants, MEA. Any failure could lead to imprisonment and/or fine,” Shroff said.

The ministry maintains that most complaints are forwarded to state governments for action.

The data shows that of the 2,869 complaints received between January 2012 and December 2020, at least 97% were transferred to state governments. In 2016, the ministry issued SOPs for states to act in such cases.

However, the states have not been able to launch prosecution against most agencies. Of the 2,775 complaints received from the ministry of external affairs since 2012, states have sought sanction for prosecution in 169 cases, all of which have been granted by the ministry.

Echoing Shroff’s views, Ameen-e-Mudassar, founder, CIGMA, which provides career guidance to students going abroad, said students and parents must ensure agents are legitimate.

“We’ve received feedback from missions and students about issues and challenges they faced before taking admission in foreign countries and after joining the courses. Issues include poor standard or fake universities and dismal quality of education imparted at foreign institutions,” the MEA told the Lok Sabha recently.

Students also complained about a lack of information on procedures for obtaining visas, bank loans or insurance as well as misleading information about fees to be paid to the universities and issues on recognition of degrees.

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