I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land where I work and live. I pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging. I celebrate the stories, culture and traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders of all communities who work and live on this land.
“Girmitiyas”, or Indentured Labourers, is the name given to the Indians who left India in the middle and late 19th Century to serve as labourers in the British colonies, where the majority eventually settled. GIRMIT is a corrupt form of the English word “Agreement”. Labour emigrating under the Agreement or Girmit was a “Girmitiya”.
This website focuses on over 60,500 labourers who were transported to the Fiji Islands from 1879 – to 1916) to work on the plantations of Fiji.
Girmit.org acknowledge the National Archives of Fiji as custodians of the original collection material. The passes have been digitised and are freely available online through the National Library of Australia.
It serves as a knowledge base, a research tool. It is available, especially for the descendants of the original labourers (Girmitiyas) who are passionate about finding out more about their history and wish to verify their heritage. GIRMIT.org has been established to provide information for anyone interested in the history of the Indentured Labourers, the “Girmitiyas”. They were transported to Fiji by the British under the System of Indenture or GIRMIT, the term used by the Indian Indentures for the word AGREEMENT.
How to search for an Immigration Pass?
Access by Arrival Date
If you know the year of arrival you may search here.
The data available is the Ship Name, the year of arrival, immigration pass number range.
- The "View Online" link will direct you to the National Library of Australias Trove database records of the passengers who arrived in the respective ship during that year.
Access by Ship Name
If you know the name of the ship, you may search here.
The data available is the Ship Name, the year of arrival, immigration pass number range. You will be redirected to the National Library of Australias Trove database where you can navigate to the correct immigration pass number.
- You will be directed to the National Library of Australias Trove database with records of the respective ships passengers.
Access by Pass Number
If you know the immigration pass number or the range or an idea of the number range, you may search here.
The data available is the Ship Name, the year of arrival, immigration pass number range.
- This search results are the passengers immigration pass number. From here you are able to obtain the ship name and access the "Search ship" records which will direct you to the National Library of Australias Trove database ship results.
If you wish to submit an enquiry to the Australian National Library (NLA) for a copy or copies of emigration passes but do not know such information as the date or the name of the ship on which your relatives arrived, it is recommended that you first obtain copies of any / all registered civil events concerning your relatives in Fiji.
Some Fijian birth certificates of children born to Indian immigrant parents are known to state the name of the ship of each parent.
Although not explicitly required to be stated in the ‘First Schedule, Form No. 1. (Section 11.) Register of Births, of the Ordinance for the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (No. 2 of 1892)’, the provision of the name of the ship on which the immigrant Indian parent arrived may have been a recognized substitution for other information stated to be required in the Schedule, ie: father’s name and surname, rank or profession, age and birthplace, when and where married, previous issue living and deceased, as well as mother’s name and maiden surname, age and birthplace.
According to the ‘Marriage Ordinance 1918, Schedule F.—(Section 4.) Certificate of Marriage of Indian Immigrants Introduced into the Colony’, the details required to be provided were their:
The British and other European colonial powers started the Indian indenture system in 1838 as a cheap source of labour for their colonies after African slavery was abolished in 1833. Under this system, some 1.2 million Indians were displaced from India to the colonies between 1838 and 1916. Indian indentured emigration to Fiji began in 1879. It was started by Sir Arthur Gordon, the first substantive governor of the colony (1875-80), to meet the labour shortage caused by the Fijians’ prohibition of commercial employment and by the increasing uncertainty and cost of the Polynesian labour trade.
In North India, there was great popular resistance to emigration and it was difficult to obtain recruits, especially women. The emigration system was unsuited to Indian conditions, the regulation did not always work in the way intended, and abuses were widespread. Most of the emigrants were young and fit and were recruited as individuals in the towns. They were a fair cross-section of village castes, had been driven by economic pressure or alienation from kin, and enlisted to secure high wages, with the intention of returning to India. The areas of recruitment were determined by economic, and, secondarily, by cultural factors. Most of the 60,965 emigrants came from the Gangetic plain, but 25% were recruited in Madras, where there was less resistance to emigration.
On the plantations, impersonality and drudgery were the rules. Inspection safeguards were inadequate and immigrants found it difficult to secure redress in the courts. Assaults and an excessive number of prosecutions were serious problems. The food and medical attention were inadequate over most of the period. Vice was rampant because of the disproportion of the sexes, unsatisfactory living conditions and the breakdown of social controls. Because of the nature of Indian society, the breakdown was much greater than most migrations.
The contracts of the indentured labourers required them to work in Fiji for a certain period of time as specified in their agreements. After 5 years of Girmit, they were free to return to India at their own expense.
The colonial government was compelled to provide free passage back to India to every Girmitiya and their children, after 10 years of Girmit.
It is argued that they were prevented from returning to India by the colonial government of Fiji and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR) of Australia.
This was done to ensure a continued supply of Indian labour to Fiji’s sugar industry, on which Fiji’s economy depended at that time. Few of the immigrants kept up ties with India, but about 40% returned – many of them suffered great hardship.
Those who stayed did so because of new kinship ties or enhanced economic and social opportunity; the Government encouraged them to stay. Most of them settled on the lands as farmers prospered and progressed.
The majority of the Indo-Fijians are direct descendants of these exiled Girmitiyas of Fiji. This website is a homage to these Girmitiyas and their children.
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The initial number of women in the Colonies were less. It was also considered that if the labourers had a family living in the colonies they would be more likely to stay on. Women, however, were not treated well; apart from living in appalling conditions, they were expected to return to work on the farms…
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Interview – The National Library of Australia
From 1879 to 1916, over 60,000 Indians migrated to Fiji under the Indentured Labourer Scheme. The British Government introduced the system to recruit labourers from India to work on plantations in Fiji. The Indian Indentured Labourer collection held at the National Library of Australia includes immigration passes, general registers, plantation registers, repatriation registers and death registers. These records are used by many…
Gallery - Rare Images
This website has been created to pay tribute to these Girmitiyas and to provide information to anyone who shares similar interests and sentiments towards this very sensitive and important part of our history.