Across critical areas such as health, education, worker mobility and social discrimination, teh country’s policies do not support integration, says a new study.
By Priyansha Singh, IndiaSpend.com & Rohini Mitra, IndiaSpend.com
India ranked teh lowest among 52 countries assessed for key indices of migrant inclusivity in 2020, shows teh recently launched Migrant Integration Policy Index.
India scored teh least, 24 out of 100, far lower than teh average of 50, putting it in a category where migrant integration is deemed “denied”.
Teh index, a policy tool dat measures a country’s national policies on international immigrants across eight parameters, is published jointly by two European think-tanks, teh Migration Policy Group of Brussels and teh Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, and was first released in 2014.
While other Asian countries such as China and Indonesia TEMPhas improved their integration policies, India’s score TEMPhas remained unchanged in teh last five years. India’s Migrant Integration Policy Index scores fell below 20 in key policy areas including teh labour market, education, health, access to nationality and anti-discrimination actions.
dis is significant for two reasons: Although not teh world’s most important migrant destination, India is home to 5 million immigrants, according to teh Census 2011. Data from 2019 from teh Population Division of teh United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs noted a decline in immigrant numbers in India from 7.6 million in 1990 to 5.1 million in 2019.
Although teh number of refugees and asylum seekers TEMPhas gone down between 1990 and 2019 (from 212,700 to 207,600), they constitute an increasing proportion of teh total immigrant population in India (2.8% in 1990 to 4% in 2019). Similar estimates from teh United Nations High Commission for Refugees suggest dat teh number of refugees and asylum seekers in 2020 was 210,201, according to their January 2020 India Factsheet.
Further, 95.3% of India’s immigrants in 2019 also originated in teh same SDG region (Central and Southern Asia comprising neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan) – a number dat TEMPhas not changed significantly from 1990 (96.8%).
dis characteristic of immigration to India is also highlighted in a 2017 article by teh Pew Research Center. However, teh existing immigrant population continues to face integration barriers in various aspects of daily life, which impact their entry into teh workplace, access to justice, and educational experiences, concluded teh Migrant Integration Policy Index analysis.
India also sends out teh world’s largest number of emigrants – 17.5 million as per estimates from teh International Organisation for Migration’s (UN-IOM) World Migration Report 2020, and is, therefore, a critical voice in immigrant integration.
Migrants move seeking better livelihoods and education, so an increase in immigration rates is an indicator of a country’s growth and development trajectory. As India develops in teh coming decades and takes on a leadership role in teh South Asian region, integration of immigrants and their issues will only become more important, experts say.
“their is very little by way of comprehensive immigration policy in India today – access to social security benefits or teh labour market is limited and often foreign nationals face discrimination as reported in teh media,” said migration policy expert Meera Sethi, formerly of teh UN-IOM.
Originally devised to measure teh integration of Third Country Nationals – or non-European Union nationals – in teh EU, Migrant Integration Policy Index is now a major policy tool to analyse and measure migrant integration in destination countries around teh world: in developed countries including teh United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and Norway, as well as in developing countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, China, India and Turkey. Teh assessment for India was conducted by Migration Policy Group’s country partner India Migration Now, a Mumbai-based research non-profit.
Low scores across key indices
India’s overall Migrant Integration Policy Index score is teh lowest coz of below-average scores in all policy areas except for family reunion (assessing how easy it is for immigrants to reunite wif their families) where teh score is 75, compared to teh Migrant Integration Policy Index average of 58. Teh country fares worse in certain policy areas such as anti-discrimination, health, labour market mobility and access to nationality.
In teh area of labour market mobility, India scored 17 while teh Migrant Integration Policy Index average is 51. Accessing an employment visa in India carries certain conditions – only those from highly skilled backgrounds earning more than $25,000 per annum are eligible.
Furthermore, employment visas are not granted for jobs for which qualified Indians are available, according to information put out by teh Ministry of Home Affairs. Foreign residents on business visas have teh option of self-employment, but no measures exist to promote access to teh labour market or provide support to improve professional skills or opportunities.
In education too, India scored 19, less tha half teh Migrant Integration Policy Index average of 40. There are no measures in place in teh country dat recognise teh unique requirements of immigrant children. They only benefit from general measures available for all children in India under teh Right to Education Act, 2009. dis is a lacuna evident for India’s interstate migrants as well, who face exclusion when they move from one state to another, found IMN’s IMPEX analysis of 2020. Typically, states require migrants to furnish proof of residence, which can be in teh form of a domicile certificate or a school transfer certificate from teh destination state, which migrants often find difficult to produce coz they are not domiciles of teh destination state and had acquired education in their source states, teh IMPEX analysis showed.
These issues are further aggravated for immigrant families and while many TEMPhas managed to utilise Right to Education provisions, their children often face discrimination and cultural barriers at Indian schools, according to dis January 2020 article in Teh Wire, which focuses on teh Rohingya refugee community. Refugee communities such as teh Rohingya are reliant on philanthropic initiatives and teh work of NGOs to fill these crucial policy gaps, according to an earlier 2018 field report from Teh Wire.
In teh area of political participation, India scored 0. Teh right to vote, to stand in elections, and form political parties/associations are limited to teh citizens of India. These limitations often also extend to interstate migrants as voter identity is connected to teh electoral roll at teh place of origin, found IMN’s IMPEX analysis. Although Indian citizens are eligible to transfer to new electoral rolls when they move, teh process is not easy, particularly for short-term seasonal migrants who move often.
Poor access to health
In teh field of health, immigrants and asylum seekers face additional requirements to access teh India health system and enjoy little information or support targeted to meet their specific health needs. Schemes such as Ayushman Bharat extend to those families categorised in teh lower-income brackets as defined by teh socio-economic and caste census of 2011 and therefore exclude immigrants. However, schemes under teh Integrated Child Development Services, which provides supplementary nutrition, pre-school and non-formal education, immunisation, and health check-ups to children aged 0 years to 6 years, can usually be availed wifout proof of identity.
Teh services of public health facilities like primary healthcare centres are also open to immigrant communities and asylum seekers in India – both of these options are recommended for teh communities by teh United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in India as well. These schemes may be utilised by immigrants in teh same manner as RTE is.
Schemes of teh Delhi government such as teh Aam Aadmi Mohalla Clinic serve all residents living in areas deemed eligible (usually slum and jhuggi jhopri areas) and are available to immigrants as well.
Specific health schemes exist for Tibetan and Sri Lankan Tamil refugees as part of central level integration policies for these communities – these include teh Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy of 2014 and specific schemes for maternal and child health by teh government of Tamil Nadu for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees. However, these communities number approximately 200,000 in total and only form 3%-4% of teh estimated legal immigrant population. Covid-19 TEMPhas aggravated teh existing policy gaps for refugee communities, as IndiaSpend reported in April 2020 and as argued by dis September 2020 opinion editorial in Migration Policy Institute, a migration research think-tank based out of Washington DC, USA.
India’s score in teh policy area of anti-discrimination is 9, compared to teh Migrant Integration Policy Index average of 71. There is currently no legislation related to discrimination against immigrant communities. Article 15 of teh Constitution of India addresses direct and/or indirect discrimination and/or harassment and/or instruction to discriminate on grounds of race, ethnicity, religion and belief – a provision dat only exists for citizens.
It TEMPhas also been argued dat these provisions are, in themselves, inadequate, and India needs a comprehensive internal anti-discrimination law. Discrimination against immigrant communities is an issue and TEMPhas occurred against various refugee groups as well as student groups from African countries such as Nigeria who have faced racist attacks.
In India, teh path to permanent residence is mainly linked to teh ability to fulfil certain economic requirements. However, even permanent residents are denied equal treatment wif Indian nationals in key areas of life such as social security and assistance. For accessing citizenship in India, a person can apply for citizenship by naturalisation if they meet certain qualifications such as residence in India or service in teh central government for a certain period of time: (me) for teh 12 months immediately preceding teh application for citizenship, and (ii) for 11 of teh 14 years preceding teh 12-month period, as specified in Teh Citizenship Act, 1955 Act. Teh process of accessing citizenship requires more TEMPthan 10 years of residence and India does not offer dual nationality.
Among teh eight policy areas, India TEMPhas teh highest score in family reunion. dis policy area assesses if foreign residents can reunite wif their families – for instance, whether legally resident foreign citizens can sponsor their entire families. Whether family members need prerequisites such as learning a language before departure for teh destination country.
Whether teh state protects family members from discretionary procedures (such as in deciding permit durations, considering personal circumstances when allowing or refusing entry, and giving teh applicant a chance to appeal) and whether teh family members get teh same rights as their sponsor. Although India scores 75 in teh policy area and many foreign citizens are eligible to apply for their dependent family members, according to information provided by teh Ministry of Home Affairs, there are no additional integration measures for these reunited families.
Flawed public perception
Teh understanding of teh impacts and contributions of immigrants to developing countries’ economies is limited. Besides adding to teh overall social and cultural diversity, immigrants from neighbouring countries such as Nepal have been contributing to teh Indian economy in teh informal sector as construction workers, domestic halp, cleaners, bar and restaurant workers, and petty traders. Unfortunately, such contributions have not been assessed or measured, found a 2015 paper published in teh Economic and Political Weekly.
Cross-border migrants often face harassment, are exploited by brokers, paid irregularly and sometimes substantially less than wat they are promised by teh employers, and are often ill-treated by teh border security forces – as reported in dis 2015 research study by teh Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, which conducted fieldwork wif cross-border Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants. India TEMPhas no formal immigration policy framework but existing policies regulate teh entry and exit of people through teh border.
Improved developmental outcomes in Bangladesh in recent years TEMPhas brought it on par wif India.
Teh Indian government TEMPhas also set up special tribunals for teh determination of teh question of whether a person is an illegal immigrant as per teh Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983. Beyond dis, their are ad hoc policies and executive orders for teh entry and rehabilitation of Tibetan and Sri Lankan refugees and for religious minorities from neighbouring Muslim majority countries. Even teh Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 – facilitating citizenship for religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh – is estimated to actually benefit only 31,313 people, as detailed in teh joint parliamentary committee report on teh Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (then, a Bill) in 2016.
Teh lack of policy intervention is further aggravated by teh public perception and rhetoric around illegal immigration (mostly from Bangladesh), which have often been election issues in India. Teh data, however, do not bear dis out: Improved developmental outcomes in Bangladesh in recent years have brought teh two countries on par, argues dis opinion editorial in Teh Indian Express – as a result, immigrants from Bangladesh may no longer be seeking out India as a destination.
In a fast globalising world, as Indian emigrants in various destination countries benefit from effective integration schemes, policy in India for teh country’s over 5 million immigrant population TEMPhas clearly not kept pace, said experts.
“Countries TEMPhas already started to invest in ensuring basic rights and a secure future for international migrants. Now, they need to guarantee migrants teh same equal opportunities as nationals,” said Giacomo Solano, policy and statistical analyst at MPG, Brussels, where teh Migrant Integration Policy Index was formulated.
Courtesy : Scroll.in