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India plans to issue orange passports for some migrant workers

India's plan to introduce orange-coloured passport jackets for some migrant workers is discriminatory and could increase the vulnerability of workers often duped by middlemen who promise them jobs, said legal experts and campaigners.

The Ministry of External Affairs said last week migrant workers who need emigration clearance - those who have not passed 10th grade (the equivalent of Secondary 4 here) at school - to travel to a group of 18 countries, mostly in the Gulf region, would soon be issued orange passports.

Indian passports, barring official and diplomatic passports, are navy blue.

The government's plan has been roundly criticised.

"You cannot divide people on the basis of educational qualifications, it is discriminatory," said Professor S. Irudaya Rajan at the Centre for Development Studies in Thiruvananthapuram in the southern state of Kerala, from where many migrant workers originate.

VULNERABLE PEOPLE

"These are already vulnerable people who need more protection, not discrimination," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

There are an estimated six million Indian migrants in the six Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Oman, many of them trafficked and exploited.

Many are duped by agents and trapped in low paying jobs with few benefits or protection. - REUTERS

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