New Delhi, Dec 19 (PTI) The number of emigration clearances granted to Indians going to the Gulf countries for employment has come down to 2.94 lakh in 2018 from 7.75 lakh four years ago, the Lok Sabha was told Wednesday.

Responding to a question in the Lower House, Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh gave figures of the country-wise emigration clearances granted to the Indian workers in Gulf countries.

According to the figures, 2,94,837 clearances were granted up to November 30 this year to the workers, who hold emigration check required (ECR) passports.

In 2014, 7,75,845 clearances were given to ECR passport-holding workers in the Gulf countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Last year, 3,74,324 emigration clearances were granted, while the number of clearances were 5,07,274 in 2016 and 7,60,738 in 2015, it said.

The sharpest decline has been in Saudi Arabia where the number of emigration clearances granted to Indian workers declined from 3,29,882 in 2014 to 65,542 till November 30 this year, the figures showed.

“There are several reasons for (the) decreasing number of emigration clearance through the e-Migrate system. Prominent among them is that the Gulf countries are passing through a period of economic slowdown, primarily because of the slump in oil prices. Coupled with this, the Gulf countries are aiming at filling up maximum posts, both in public and private sector, by their own nationals,” Singh said in a written response.

“Therefore, there has been a demand shortage for foreign workers in these countries. Moreover, a large number of Indian nationals holding ECR passports reportedly travel to the Gulf countries on tourist visa and get their visas converted to employment visa, thereby bypassing the e-Migrate system,” he added.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.