As globalisation took place, people started migrating to different places in large numbers for better economic and social gains. India is a mixed country consisting of vast diversities, having mixed races and cultures, offers a variety of attractions for immigration from other countries. Immigration refers to the movement of people from one country to another for better opportunities or the purpose of long-term settlement. The main challenge to Indian immigration, however, is to, acquire Indian citizenship and drop their previously held citizenship as India does not allow dual citizenship.
What Is Immigration Policy?
Immigration policy includes all of those policies whereby the states control the influx of persons who want to establish residence within their borders: rules regarding right of access to the territory(entry and residence), permission to participate in the labour market(work permits), the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, the right of immigrants to bring family members(family reunification), and rules for the acquisition of citizenship by immigrants and their family members(naturalization). Such rules may be linked to the notion of human rights of individuals(as in the case of asylum or family reunification law) or respond to selective state objectives(such as demographic and labour market needs). Immigration policies can be traced back to rules whereby modern states defined who held citizenship rights in the aftermath of the French revolution.
Bureau of Immigration
The Bureau of Immigration (BOI) was set up in 1971 by the Government of India to undertake an Immigration function in the country. BOI is headed by the Commissioner of Immigration and assisted by FRROs for immigration facilitation service at airports and work relating to registration of foreigners under various Acts and Rules. Altogether, there are 86 Immigration Check Posts all over India, catering to international traffic. Out of these, 37 ICPs are functioning under the BOI, while the remaining is being managed by the concerned State Governments. At present, there are 12 FRROs in major cities i.e. Delhi, Mumbai Kolkata, Chennai, Amritsar, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Calicut, Kochi, Trivandrum, Lucknow and Ahmedabad. Apart from this, there are 12 Chief Immigration Officers in the cities i.e. Goa, Jaipur, Gaya, Varanasi, Nagpur, Pune, Mangalore, Trichy, Coimbatore, Bagdogra, Chandigarh and Guwahati. At remaining places District Superintendent of Police (SP) or the prescribed authority functions as FRO to facilitate foreigners.
Status of Immigration Policy
Across critical areas such as health, education, worker mobility and social discrimination, India’s immigration policies do not support integration say a new study. India ranked lowest among 52 countries assessed for key indices for migrants inclusivity 2020, which shows the recently launched Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX). India scored the least, 24 out of 100, far lower than the MIPEX average of 50, putting it in a category where migrant integration is deemed ‘denied’. While other Asian countries such as China and Indonesia have improved their integration policies, India’s score has remained unchanged in the last five years. India’s MIPEX scores fell below 20 in key policy areas including the labour market, health, and education, access to nationality and discrimination actions.
This is significant for two reasons: Although not the world’s most important migrant destination, India is home to five million immigrants according to census 2011. Data from 2019 from the population division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs noted a decline in immigrant number in India from 7.6 million in 1990 to 5.1 million in 2019. Although the number of refugees and asylum seekers has gone down between 1990 and 2019(from 212700 to 207600), they constitute an increasing proportion of the total immigrant population in India (2.8% in 1990 to 4% in 2019). Further, 95.3% of India’s immigrants in 2019 also originated in the same SDG region(Central and Southern Asia comprising of neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan)- a number that has not changed significantly from 1990(96.8%).
“There is very little by way of comprehensive immigration policy in India today–access to social security benefits or the labour market is limited and often foreign nationals face discrimination as reported in the media,” said migration policy expert Meera Sethi.
Obstacles for Immigrants in India
- Labour market mobility: Immigrants with the legal right to work face major obstacles to access the labour market, with no general and targeted support to improve their professional skills or opportunities.
- Family reunification: Although many foreign citizens are favourably eligible to apply for their close family members, these reunited families are made entirely dependent on the sponsor for their integration.
- Education: Like other countries with small numbers of foreign pupils, India does relatively little to encourage them across the education system or support diversity at school, although basic targeted support is available.
- Health: Legal migrants and asylum seekers face additional requirements to access the Indian health system and enjoy little information or support targeted to meet their specific health needs.
- Political participation: Immigrants are fully denied the opportunity to participate in public life in India, as foreign citizens have no right to vote, support or consultation by policymakers.
- Permanent residence: The path to permanent residence for newcomers in India is mainly linked to their ability to fulfil its economic requirements, but even permanent residents are denied equal treatment with Indian nationals in key areas of life like social security and assistance.
- Access to nationality: The path to Indian citizenship is long (>10 years) and burdensome, as India has not followed international reform trends to open up dual nationality for foreign citizens or birthright citizenship entitlements or their Indian-born children.
- Anti-discrimination: Foreign citizens who are victims of ethnic, racial, religious or nationality discrimination have little chance to access justice in India, as they are not covered by anti-discrimination laws or a dedicated independent equality body.
In a fast-growing or globalising world, as Indian emigrants in various destination countries benefit from effective immigration integration policy and schemes, policies and schemes in India for the country’s over five million immigrant population are clearly undesirable and not in pace with other countries. The lack of policy intervention is put out by the public perception and expressed around illegal immigration, which has often been an election issue in India. India’s approach to integration is categorised by MIPEX as ‘immigration without integration’ because Indian policies refuse to recognise India as a country of immigration. So India needs to look into its immigration policy and alter for integration and betterment of people who migrate to India.
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