Illegal Migration

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  • Vibin Lakshmanan asked: How illegal cross-border migrations in South Asia impact regional and bilateral relations?

    P.K. Upadhyay replies: Borders are meant to insulate inmates of a house, society, or nation in a secure environment. However, borders do not seek to create airtight compartments to segregate people. They allow for regulated movement of people so that the order and lives of a community’s members are not disturbed. Illegal migrations go against the very grain of this concept of security. Maintaining border controls against illegal migrations becomes very difficult when any one country in the region achieves greater economic growth rate, better life standards, greater job opportunities, better medical facilities and education and offers more security of life against lawlessness of either the state, or the non-state players. In South Asia, this manifests itself in the form of illegal migration of people to India from practically all its neighbours.

    There are Nepalese and Bhutanese migrants who basically come to India for better job opportunities, education and medical facilities that are available here. From Bangladesh, the migrations are again driven by these factors, plus at times, by the sense of insecurity among country's Hindu and Buddhist minorities. The migration from Sri Lanka is driven by the sense of insecurity and discrimination driven by ethnic policies of the majority community that plague the country's ethnic minorities. Illegal migrations from Pakistan are mostly driven by that country’s hostile intent against the Indian state, and also due to the persecution of its minorities. The turmoil in Afghanistan also forced a large number of Afghans to come to India for security and many of those people chose to stay on in India. Such migrations upset the social and economic equilibrium in a society and generate social, economic and ethnic tensions, apart from myriad of security problems.

    Migrations also add to the pressures on the availability of civil supplies, habitat, hygiene and medical facilities. At a political level when such illegal migrants settle down at a place for longer durations, they create tensions by finding their way into the electoral processes and polity. This becomes even more complex and volatile if the government or any other agency in the migrant’s country triggers migrations in a phased manner with an extra-territorial agenda. Such problems are basically of a human nature and, to an extent, are unavoidable in the context of human growth and evolution. They require a delicate approach and handling, unless a country is willing to be labeled as insensitive and inhuman.

    Cooperation is the key to manage the India-Bangladesh Border

    That cooperation between neighbours can pave the way for resolving issues relating to the management of shared borders is amply demonstrated by the outcomes of various bilateral interactions that took place between India and Bangladesh in recent months.

    October 12, 2012

    Manisha asked: What strategy did US follow to check migration from Mexico? Can it be of relevance to India in terms of preventing illegal migration?

    Pushpita Das replies: For the United States, illegal migration from its southern land borders, especially from Mexico, has been a major border management challenge since the 1960s. However, the inflow of Mexicans assumed overwhelming proportions in the 1980s, compelling the Reagan administration to enact the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), making it illegal for employers to hire unauthorised immigrants. This Act did not prove effective as the trend of illegal migration continued in subsequent years.

    During the 1990s, under the National Strategy Plan formulated in 1994, several operations, such as Operation Hold-the-Line (El Paso 1994), Operation Gatekeeper (San Diego, 1994), Operation Safeguard (Nogales, Arizona 1994), and Operation Rio Grande (South Texas, 1997) to prevent the entry of illegal migrants from Mexico were conducted with some success.

    Currently, under the National Border Patrol Strategy of 2005, the United States Border Patrol (USBP), which is responsible for guarding the US borders, deploys personnel, tactical infrastructure and technology to prevent illegal migration. At present, of the total border patrol agents deployed along the country’s international borders, 80 per cent are deployed along its southern borders to ‘watch the line’ and interdict any unathorised entry in the United States. Besides, forward operating bases and check posts have been constructed for conducting and coordinating patrols along the border. Physical obstacles such as fences and vehicle barriers (permanent and temporary) have also been constructed to impede the illegal entry of people and vehicles. To date, nearly 650 miles of fencing, including 299 miles of vehicle barriers and 350 miles of pedestrian fence, have been erected along the US–Mexico border. To improve detection, floodlights are being installed, while roads are being laid for better mobility of patrol agents. Various electronic surveillance devices, such as remote video surveillance systems, sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles, mobile night vision scopes, radars, etc are deployed as force multipliers.

    The US strategy to prevent the inflow of migrants has achieved mixed results. The massive deployment of personnel and resources has indeed resulted in large scale arrests of persons trying to illegally cross into the United States. While apprehension figures since 2006 of illegal migrants from Mexico show a declining trend, indicating that fewer people are trying to cross the US-Mexico border, the fact remains that the number of illegal migrants in the United States grew from 3.5 million in 1990 to 10.8 million in 2009, of which 6.7 million were from Mexico.

    India too has employed a similar strategy to guard its borders against illegal migration. It has deployed border forces and installed electronic devices to guard the borders. India has also erected fences along its borders with Bangladesh and Pakistan to prevent illegal migration. Like the United States, India has to an extent been successful in preventing large-scale illegal migration. A decline in the number of illegal migrants apprehended by the Border Security Force over the years bears a testimony to this fact.

    The Persecuted Rohingyas of Myanmar: Need for Political Accommodation and India`s Role

    While India is not immediately affected by the Rohingya refugee migration from Myanmar, it cannot be oblivious to the regional dimensions of such human migrations based on ethnic discontent.

    August 13, 2012

    Manish Sawankar asked: Is the government reluctant to deal with the issue of illegal immigration from Bangladesh?

    Anand Kumar replies: Illegal immigration is not getting the attention it should for various reasons. First and foremost, our country is having a coalition government which is always struggling for its survival. As the security impact of the illegal immigration is of silent nature and seen only over a period of time, it is not getting the attention it deserves. Moreover, the issue gets immediately communalised because most migrants coming from Bangladesh are Muslims. Hence, the government does not want to touch this issue.

    V Krishnakanth Vellanki asked: Why should India provide grant and loans to Bangladesh while it remains silent on the issue of illegal infiltration and anti-India activities carried out from its soil?

    Smruti S. Pattanaik replies: India's decision to provide grant and loan is going to benefit both India and Bangladesh. These grants and loans are for building roads and other communication networks that would facilitate transit to the north-eastern parts of India. Transit through Bangladesh has been a long standing request from India.

    Under Awami League regime, action against anti-India activities has been taken. Some insurgent leaders have been arrested and handed over to India. Both the countries are working out mechanisms to address the issue of illegal migration as it includes illegal trafficking of women and children. Illegal migration affects India’s security and economic and social stability. In the absence of any mechanism to address this, the two governments agreed for joint border patrol which started last year in July. Apart from this, the BSF needs to be more vigilant to prevent unauthorised migration.

    V Krishnakanth Vellanki asked: Isn't illegal immigration from Bangladesh a serious security threat to India? How can it be checked?

    Anand Kumar: Illegal migration from Bangladesh is a serious threat to security of India. It can be checked only if central and state governments decide to act in tandem. At present there is little political will. Also, there is less focus on the issue because its impact is seen in the long-term. Moreover, the illegal migrants are now spread all over India. As a result, they no more provoke the kind of agitation that was seen earlier in states like Assam.

    Illegal Bangladeshi Migration to India: Impact on Internal Security

    Migration, a worldwide phenomenon, has often been seen as beneficial for both the sending and receiving countries. However, post-9/11, the phenomenon is seen as a mixed blessing. It is also being realised that it is impossible to check illegal migration unless the sending country cooperates. In South Asia, India has been at the receiving end of the problem of illegal immigration from Bangladesh. This paper argues that such illegal migration is posing a threat to internal security because the issue has not been properly securitised.

    January 2011

    Maitrayee Guha asked: What steps should India take to tackle the problem of Illegal Immigration?

    Namrata Goswami replies: India can take three specific steps to tackle the problem of Illegal Immigration:

    1. India needs to fence its borders especially on its eastern side. Border posts must be established and professionalism of the border security forces need to be upgraded.
    2. Work permits can be issued to those from neighbouring countries wanting to work in India.
    3. Bilateral arrangements with neighbouring countries need to worked out so that illegal immigration is checked from both sides of the international border. States like Assam, Tripura, and Mizoram should be an integral part of a unified border management institution.

    Maitrayee Guha asked: To what extant is Illegal Immigration a Security Issue?

    Namrata Goswami replies: To the extent that illegal immigration threatens to overshadow the population of a particular state. For instance, illegal immigration has threatened to change the demography of states in India and several other states in the world, so much so that there is a pervasive fear in these societies that the states' ethnic composition will change in favour of the migrant . Additionally, illegal immigration becomes a security issue when their names are added to a country's voter list. Linkages found between illegal immigrants and underground gangs, terrorist organisations and insurgent groups are also of serious security concern. Worse of all, since immigration is illegal, it is difficult to trace their networks and secret locations in order to bring the guilty to justice.