India's Refugees: A True Crisis or a False Narrative?
The paranoia in India about illegal immigrants has been on a constant rise. But do the number of actual migrants to India reflect the need for this worry? And who is most affected by this mass hysteria?
As India entered 2020 with huge protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which deals with giving (or denying) citizenship to illegal immigrants, there is a perception among people that more and more illegal migrants are flooding India.
The narrative against Rohingya refugees is dependent on this belief.
The leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party(BJP) have been vocal about deporting Bangladeshi migrants and the ‘issue of illegal migrants’ has gained a lot of public attention.
It has also been in popular perception that more and more Bangladeshi illegal immigrants are coming in recent years.
See my timeline if i m a bhakt or not. There is a limit that india can take Bangladeshi.— Bareilly ki khaini (@Aashiturner0007) December 18, 2019
Bangladesh has one of the highest human density on earth.
There is a limit that india can take illegal immigrants. But the number is increasing. We have to draw a line.
It's reality, lacs of illegal immigrants were given entry into India for increasing vote bank& national security was threatened.D issues of social& national interests were compromised. It's very reason, native poor ppl suffered&malnutrition still prevailing among der children.— Dilip Singh (@MauDilip) July 30, 2018
However, the data reveals that this perception is not true and the number of migrants coming to India is actually decreasing.
According to The United Nations International Migrant Stock data, the number of migrants in India has steadily decreased from 75.9 lakhs in 1990 to 51.5 lakhs in 2019. The number of Bangladeshi migrants has also decreased to 31 lakhs in 2019 from 43 lakhs in 1990.
In 2019, India deported more than ten Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar. Criticising the move, Amnesty India, an international NGO for Human Rights, said in a statement that this decision to deport put these people at grave risk of being subjected to serious human rights violations by the Myanmar government.
However, in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court in September 2017, the government said that the presence of Rohingyas in the country posed national security threats.
In September 2017, according to a statement in the Parliament by then Minister of State in Ministry of Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, there were more than three lakh refugees in India by the end of 2014.
Rijiju also said that "all the Rohingya refugees are illegal immigrants and will be deported back."
According to Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan of Observer Research Foundation, there is also no specific agency or machinery that has been responsible for determining the status of refugees.
The status of refugees is determined by laws such as the Foreigners Act, 1946, The Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939, Passport (Entry into India), 1920, The Passport Act (1967), Extradition Act, 1962, the Citizenship Act, 1954 and the Foreigners Order, 1948.
Rajagopalan writes, “Having hosted close to 500,000 refugees at various points, India should formalise its arrangements.”