Migrants face more obstacles in India than in any other Asian country: Migrant Integration Policy Index 2020

Published : January 08, 2021 21:32 IST

At a refugee camp for Rohingyas at Kalindi Kunj in New Delhi, a December 2019 picture. Photo: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

If a new policy study is to be believed, India is not a great country for migrants. The Migrant Integration Policy Index 2020 (MIPEX), published by the Migration Policy Group, Brussels, and the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, has ranked India the lowest among 52 countries in terms of inclusivity for migrants. India scored 24, the least on the MIPEX scale. The average score of countries is 50.

The policy index measures policy measures that countries take to integrate migrants from five continents, including all European Union member states, the United Kingdom and other European countries such as Albania, Iceland, North Macedonia, Moldova, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine; Asian countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, and South Korea; North American countries such as Canada, Mexico and the United States; South American countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Chile; and Australia and New Zealand in Oceania

The policy index, now in its fifth edition, termed India’s approach to migrants as “immigration without integration”. It says while immigrants are able to settle down on a long-term basis in India, they are denied basic rights and equal opportunities to participate in society. India’s current policies encourage the public to see immigrants as subordinates and foreigners, according to the study.

The obstacles facing migrants in India are greater than in any of the other Asian MIPEX countries. According to the study, India’s approach to integration is important because the government’s policies influence whether or not integration works as a two-way process, influencing how well immigrants and the public interact and think of each other.

The study looked at India’s approach to migrants on eight parameters: labour market mobility, family reunification, education, health, political participation, permanent residence, access to nationality and anti-discrimination. India fared poorly on six of these parameters. Immigrants face many obstacles in nearly all areas of life in India with the exception of family reunification and permanent residence policies, it said.

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. India does little to encourage them to access the education system or support diversity at school, although basic targeted support is available. 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. Immigrants are denied the opportunity to participate in public life in India as foreign citizens have no right to vote. The path to Indian citizenship is long, sometimes more than 10 years, and burdensome as India does not follow international trends to open up dual nationality for foreign citizens.

Moreover, 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.

India scored better on the index of family reunification. While many foreign citizens could apply for citizenship for their close family members, these reunited families were made dependent entirely on the sponsor for their integration.

The path to permanent residence for newcomers in India is mainly linked to their ability to fulfil economic requirements, but even permanent residents are denied equal treatment with Indian nationals in key areas of life such as social security and assistance.

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