The issue of illegal migration in India is governed by the provisions of the Citizenship Act as amended in 2003. It defines illegal immigrants as foreigners who have entered India without valid documents or have overstayed beyond the permitted time.
Illegal migration as an internal security challenge:
- Threat to National Security: The presence of illegal immigrants, such as Rohingyas in India, raises significant national security concerns. Their continued stay has potential security ramifications, as they may be susceptible to radicalization or involved in clandestine activities.
- Clash of Interests: Large-scale influxes of illegal immigrants often lead to conflicts of interest, affecting local populations in the affected areas. Competition for resources, jobs, and housing can create tensions and instability.
- Political Instability: Some leaders exploit the issue of illegal migration to mobilize citizens against migrants for political gain, leading to political instability and communal tensions.
- Rise of Militancy: Perceived discrimination against Muslims, who may be labeled as illegal migrants, can foster radicalization and contribute to the rise of militancy, posing a significant security threat.
- Human Trafficking: The porous borders enable human trafficking and smuggling, particularly of women, which has become a rampant issue in recent years.
- Disturbance in Law and Order: Illegal migrants often engage in illegal and anti-national activities, undermining the rule of law and the country’s integrity.
Existing Legal Framework:
- Foreigners Act, 1946: This act empowers the government to take necessary steps to prevent illegal migration, including the use of force if required. It also allows the establishment of tribunals with powers akin to those of a civil court for addressing immigration-related matters.
- The Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939: Foreign nationals visiting India on long-term visas (more than 180 days) are required to register with a Registration Officer within 14 days of arrival. This act helps in maintaining records of foreign nationals residing in India.
- The Citizenship Act, 1955: This act provides for the acquisition and determination of Indian citizenship. The Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 amended the 1955 Act to grant citizenship to specific religious groups from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, thereby addressing the issue of illegal migration for these communities.
India, despite not being a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, has been one of the largest recipients of refugees globally. However, the absence of domestic legislation specifically addressing refugees may have deterred oppressive governments in neighboring countries from persecuting their populations and causing them to seek refuge in India.
The issue of illegal migration remains a complex challenge, requiring a balance between national security concerns and humanitarian considerations. A robust legal framework is essential to manage this issue effectively and protect the interests of both citizens and immigrants.