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Issue of Illegal Migrants

Issue of Illegal Migrants

Why in news?

  • Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs has informed in the Lok Sabha that according to some reports some Rohingya migrants are indulging in illegal activities.
  • The response came on the queries about the current situation of Rohingya living illegally in various parts of the country.


  • India is often described as a land of migrants, which over centuries, has attracted streams of immigrants from different races and cultures and assimilated them to build a composite civilisation.
  • India has been witnessing immigration since independence. People who have faced religious and political persecution, economic and social discrimination, cultural repression and curbs on personal freedom have made India their home.
  • Many others have entered India to escape abject poverty and economic stagnation in their country, and to build a better future for themselves. Of all kinds of migration, illegal migration has become the most volatile and contentious issue in Indian polity today because of the socio-political conflicts it has brought in its wake. Illegal migration comprises of people across national borders in a way that violates the immigration laws of the destination country.
  • Despite such unabated illegal migration from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and other bordering countries, there are no authentic official statistics to ascertain the actual number of illegal migrants in India. Nonetheless, the Government of India has periodically provided statistics on the estimated number of illegal migrants in India. In 2004, the Union Minister of State for Home told Parliament that the country had 1.2 crore illegal immigrants. Currently, India is home to over two crore illegal migrants.

Consequences of Illegal Migration in India

  • Clashes due to Insecurity: Illegal migration has resulted in periodic clashes between the citizens of India and migrants, leading to their loss of life and property, and thereby violating their constitutional rights.
  • Political Instability: Conflict over scarce resources, economic opportunities and cultural dominance ensues between the locals and migrants, along with the resultant political instability caused by the mobilisation of popular perception against the migrants by the elites to grab political power.
  • Disturbance in Law and Order: The rule of law and integrity of the country are undermined by the illegal migrants who are engaged in illegal and anti-national activities, such as entering the country clandestinely, fraudulently acquiring identity cards, exercising voting rights in India and resorting to trans-border smuggling and other crimes.
  • Rise of Militancy: The persistent attacks against the Muslims perceived as illegal migrants in Assam has given way to radicalisation within certain sections of the Muslim community with the formation of militant organisations, such as the Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA).
  • Human trafficking: In the recent decades, trafficking of women and human smuggling have become quite rampant across the borders. Poverty and hunger forces either the parents to sell the girls to traffickers or the girls themselves leave home and fall prey to traffickers.                                                    Issue of Illegal Migrants
  • Tighter Border Controls: Indian government implemented a series of schemes, such as augmenting the manpower of the border-guarding force, increasing the number of border outposts along the border, constructing fences and issuance of multiple identity cards to border population.


  • The Rohingya people are a stateless, Indo-Aryan ethnic group who reside in Rakhine State, Myanmar.
  • They are described by the United Nations (UN) as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
  • The Rohingya refugee crisis is caused by the Rohingya people having long faced violence and discrimination in Myanmar.
  • To escape discrimination and violence in Myanmar, minority Rohingya Muslims have for decades fled from the Buddhist-majority country to neighboring Bangladesh and other countries, including India.                                        Issue of Illegal Migrants

Reasons for Illegal Migration in India

  • Political Factors: Political factors have been one of the major reasons in forcing the Bangladeshi and Pakistani Hindus out of the country and into India.
  • Religious Discrimination: In Bangladesh, the already discriminatory land laws were further manipulated by vested interest groups and corrupt administrators to dispossess and alienate the Hindus from their own land and property.Religion has a particular effect in the case of the Rohingya Crisis.
  • Growing Population: Growing population creates greater demands on resources such as land, food, energy, water and forest products, and their consequent overuse results in deterioration of quality.This process, in turn, encourages inequality in resource distribution among the rich and poor as the rich corner them and deny the poor their share.
  • Stagnant Economic Growth and Lack of Employment: Industrialisation in India’s neighbouring countries has not been able to keep pace with the growing labour force and as a result, the unemployment rate is declining.The working-age people who are unable to find jobs in the country look outside for employment opportunities.
  • Porous Borders: India shares long and porous international border with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. The border traverses a range of natural and cultural landscapes, which pose a challenge to its effective management.

Steps Taken by Government

  • Centre had issued instructions to the State governments and Union Territory administrations, advising them to sensitise the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to take appropriate steps for prompt identification of illegal migrants.                                                    Issue of Illegal Migrants
  • Consolidated instructions to tackle the issue of overstay and illegal migration of foreign nationals have also been issued.

Existing Legal Framework

  • The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920:
    • The act empowered the government to make rules requiring persons entering India to be in possession of passports.
    • It also granted the government the power to remove from India any person who entered without a passport.
  • Foreigners Act, 1946:
    • It replaced the Foreigners Act, 1940 conferring wide powers to deal with all foreigners.
    • The act empowered the government to take such steps as are necessary to prevent illegal migrants including the use of force.
    • The concept of ‘burden of proof’ lies with the person, and not with the authorities given by this act is still applicable in all States and Union Territories. This concept has been upheld by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court.
    • The act empowered the government to establish tribunals which would have powers similar to those of a civil court.
    • Recent amendments (2019) to the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964 empowered even district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up tribunals to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not.
  • The Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939:
    • Registration under FRRO is a mandatory requirement under which all foreign nationals (excluding overseas citizens of India) visiting India on a long term visa (more than 180 days) are required to register themselves with a Registration Officer within 14 days of arriving in India.
    • Pakistani nationals visiting India are required to register within 24 hours of arrival regardless of the duration of their stay.
  • The Citizenship Act, 1955:
    • It provides for the acquisition and determination of Indian citizenship.                                              Issue of Illegal Migrants
    • Moreover, the Constitution has also provided citizenship rights for Overseas Citizens of India, Non-Resident Indians, and Persons of Indian Origin.



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