“Girmitiyas” or Indentured Labourers, is the name given the Indians who left Indian 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”.  A labour emigrating under the Agreement or Girmit was a “Girmitiya”.

History

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:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Registered No.
  • Fathers’ Name
  • Name of Ship
  • Ship’s No.
  • Place where married, and
  • Name of employer and estate to which indentured

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.

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.

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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.