Policies relating to migration are concerned with two aspects: internal migration, that is, migration within the country, and international migration, including both immigration and emigration.
Internal migration is considered to be a constitutional privilege in most countries, and, therefore, what national governments can do in this regard is only to encourage internal migration with a view to relieving population pressures, especially when there are regional differentials in density per square mile or kilometer.
The concern today in most countries is with the high levels of population growth rates in metropolitan regions, and heavy migration from rural areas to urban centers, leading to increase pressures on urban services.
Government’s developing countries expressed this dissatisfaction to a greater extent than those of developed countries. A majority in both groups, however, have policies designed to reduce the flow of internal migration, that is, from rural to urban areas.
These policies generally took the form of development strategies to influence the volume and directions of internal migration. Other strategies of an indirect nature to make population distribution policies effective are also employed.
As has been pointed out, “In a majority of countries, economic growth policies tend to take priority over population distribution policies, with the result that national development programmes sometimes continue to favour the expansion of overcrowded areas.”
As for international migration, most countries today have well defined policies. Restrictions on international migration are increasing, and governments continue to have additional regulations, limiting both entry into and exit from their domains.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday said the government will not budge an inch on its decision to implement the Citizenship Amendment Act despite the opposition’s misinformation campaign.
The “detection, deletion and deportation” of illegal migrants has been on the agenda of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 1996. In December 2003, the party passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003 with far-reaching revisions of the Citizenship Act by adding the notion of illegal immigrants, making them ineligible to apply for citizenship and declaring their children also as illegal immigrants. The Act also mandated the Government of India to create and maintain a National Register of Citizens. The bill received the full support of the Indian National Congress but its leader in the Upper House, Manmohan Singh, requested that the refugees belonging to the minority communities of Bangladesh should be treated more liberally.
In its manifesto for the 2014 Indian general election, the BJP promised to provide a “natural home” for persecuted Hindu refugees. The difficulties faced by Hindu refugees from Pakistan have since been reported in the news media. In the 2016 assembly elections for the border state of Assam, the BJP leaders campaigned in the state promising voters that they would rid Assam of the Bangladeshis. Simultaneously, they also promised to protect Hindus who had fled religious persecution in Bangladesh. In the context of an effort to identify and deport illegal immigrants, the proposal took a new meaning. Illegal migrants could be granted citizenship if they were non-Muslim, on the grounds that they were refugees; Muslims alone would be deported.
The year before the 2016 elections, the government legalised refugees belonging to religious minorities from Pakistan and Bangladesh, granting them long-term visas. Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals belonging to “minority communities” were exempted from the requirements of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and the Foreigners Act, 1946. Specifically mentioned were “Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Parsis and Buddhists,” who had been “compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution”. Eligibility for the exemption was made contingent on a migrant having arrived in India by 31 December 2014.
In parallel to the drafting of an amendment to the 1955 Citizenship Act, the BJP government completed an effort to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state of Assam. The process for creating the NRC had been put in place by the Citizenship rules enacted in 2003, and had been implemented in Assam under Supreme Court supervision as a result of a 2014 Supreme Court ruling. This was mandated under prior peace agreements in northeast, in particular the Assam Accord signed in the presence of the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The updated register was made public in August 2019; approximately 1.9 million residents were not on the list, and were in danger of losing their citizenship. Many of those affected were Bengali Hindus, who constitute a major voter base for the BJP. They also include Bangladeshi Muslims who constitute a vote bank for Congress, CPI(M) and the Trinamool Congress. On 19 November 2019, Home Minister Amit Shah, declared in the Rajya Sabha of the Indian Parliament that the National Register of Citizens would be implemented throughout the country.