Illegal immigration to India

An illegal immigrant in India is a person residing in the country without an official permission as prescribed by relevant Indian law. Those who are explicitly granted refugee status do not fall under this category.

No reliable numbers on illegal immigrants are currently available.

2001 India Census Gives information about Migrants but not exclusively Illegal Immigrants. Per 2001 Census Bangladeshi form the largest group of migrants in India followed by Pakistan.[1][2]


Illegal Immigration

As per 2001 census there are 3,084,826 people in India who came from Bangladesh[1] No reliable numbers on illegal immigrants are currently available. Extrapolating the census data for the state of Assam alone gives a figure of 2 million.[3][4] Figures as high as 20 million are also reported in the government and media.[5][6] Samir Guha Roy of the Indian Statistical Institute called these estimates "motivatedly exaggerated". After examining the population growth and demographic statistics, Roy instead states that while a vast majority are illegal immigrants, significant numbers of internal migration is sometimes falsely thought to be immigrants. An analysis of the numbers by Roy revealed that on average around 91000 Bangladeshis illegal crossed over to India every year during the years 1981-1991[7]

The trip to India from Bangladesh is one of the cheapest in the world, with a trip costing around Rs.2000 (around $30 US), which includes the fee for the "Tour Operator". As Bangladeshi are cultural similar to the Bengali people in India, they are able to pass off as Indian citizens and settle down in any part of India to establish a far better future than they could in Bangladesh,[8] for a very small price. This false identity can be bolstered with false documentation available for as little as Rs.200 ($3 US) can even make them part of the vote bank.[7]

Most of the Bengali speaking people deported from Maharashtra as illegal immigrants are originally Indian citizens from West Bengal. Police would demand 2000-2500 from each of the detained Bengali speaking people for their release. If they fail to pay that amount, they are kept behind the bar for 10–15 days following which they would be taken to border and pushed into Bangladesh.[7]

The Bangladesh Liberation War and continued political and economic turmoil in Bangladesh in the following decades forced some Bangladeshis to seek refuge in India. During the Bangladesh Liberation War at least 10 million Bangladeshis crossed into India illegal to seek refuge from widespread rape and genocide.[8] Most of them migrated to the border states, particularly West Bengal and Assam.[4] This issue became more visible after the 1991 census when patterns of abnormally high growth rate of Muslims were observed in the border states Assam and West Bengal. In 1991 census Muslim population growth rates in these states were found to be much higher than the growth rates of the local Hindu population even after adjusting for the usual higher growth rate of Muslims observed throughout the country.[3][4][9] See the following tables for detail.[3][4][9][10][11][12]

Period % Growth during 1971-1991[4] % Growth during 1991-2001
Groups Muslims Hindus Difference Muslims Hindus Difference
Assam 41.89 35.42 5.53 14.95 9.3 4.35
All India 93.25 23.04 60.79 70 19.3 5.3
Period % Growth during 1981-1991 % Growth during 1991-2001
Groups Muslims Hindus Difference Muslims Hindus Difference
West Bengal 61.05 13.67 45.62 64.26 16.1 51.84
All India 52.8 22.9 30.1 50 20.3 29.3

Burmese immigrants

There are estimated 50,000-100,000 Burmese Chin immigrants residing in India, mostly in the Indian state of Mizoram and a small number is found in Delhi.[13][14][15]

Pakistani immigrants

India has hundreds of thousands of people from Pakistan, living illegally, according to one figure from 2009, it was above 37,700 to get away from the terrorism prevailing in Pakistan. [16]

Afghanistan immigrants

By 2009, India had over 13,000 illegal immigrants from Afghanistan.[16]

Political concerns over Bangladeshi illegal immigrants

Further information: Assam agitation and Assam accord
ABVP addressing about Bangladeshi illegals immigrants


In Assam, agitation against immigrants started as early as 1979, led by All Assam Students Union.[17] Their demand was to put a stop on the influx of immigrants and deportation of those who have already settled.[4] It gradually took violent form and ethnic violence started between Assamese and Bengalis, mostly Muslim. It eventually led to the infamous Nellie massacre in 1983 due to a controversy over the 1983 election.[18] In 1985 Indian Government signed the Assam accord with the leaders of the agitation to stop the issue.[4][19] As per the accord India started building a fence along the Assam-Bangladesh border which is now almost complete.[20] However, Assam also has a large number of genuine Indian Muslim Bengalis. It is difficult to distinguish between illegal Bangladeshis and local Bengali speakers.[21] In some cases, genuine Indian citizens have been discriminated[4][22] Allegations exist that nationalist parties such as the Bharatiya Janata Party as well as the Indian National Congress have discriminated against Bengali-speaking Muslims.[23] On the other hand, in some places reports of Bangladeshis being able to secure Indian ration and voter identity cards have come out.[24][25]

After 1991 census the changing demographic patterns in border districts became more visible.[3][4] It created anxiety and tension in India throughout the nineties. Both conservatives[26] as well as moderates[3] expressed concern on this issue. The first BJP government came into power in 1998 and subsequently ordered the construction of the Indo-Bangladesh barrier to stop migrants and illegal trade along the border. It was planned to enhance the already existing barrier in Assam and to encircle West Bengal, Tripura and Mizoram as well.[27][28][29]

West Bengal

The other Indian state affected by this problem, West Bengal, remained mostly calm during this period. However Indian newspapers reported that "the state government has reports that illegal Bangladeshi migrants have trickled into parts of rural Bengal, including Nandigram,[30] over the years, and settled down as sharecroppers with the help of local Left leaders. Though a majority of these immigrants became tillers, they lacked documents to prove the ownership of land.[30]"

The Government of Bangladesh has denied India's claims on illegal immigration.[31][32]

After 2001 census the anxiety somewhat reduced when the growth rates were found to have returned to near normal level, particularly in West Bengal, thus negating the fear that there was an unabated influx of migrants.[33][34] Although some concern remains.


Although Kerala is at a large distance from Bangladesh(~2500 km),Bangladeshi illegal migrants have been moving to Kerala owing to the high wages for unskilled and semi-skilled laborers, and also the presence of sizable Muslim population in the state. The Kerala police are reportedly finding it difficult to check the influx of these Bangladeshi illegal migrants.[35] Kerala State Intelligence officials said they found that a large section of Migrant labourers in Kerala claiming to be from West Bengal or even Assam were actually from Bangladesh.[36] Anti national activities have been reported ; the latest in which in August 2016, a native of west Bengal was arrested for insulting the national flag and he was later found to be an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh. There is said to be major racket at the borders of West Bengal and Assam with Bangladesh which provides illegal migrants with identity cards.[37]

Higher judiciary's concerns over Bangaladeshi illegal immigrants

In 2005, a Supreme Court bench ruled Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act (IMDT) as unconstitutional while,[38] with reference to the Sinha Report,[39] maintained that the impact of the "aggression" represented by large-scale illegal migration from Bangladesh had made the life of the people of Assam "wholly insecure and the panic generated thereby had created fear psychosis" in other north-eastern States.[38] In August 2008, the Delhi High Court dismissed a petition by a Bangladeshi national against her deportation. The High Court ruled that the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants "pose a danger to India's internal security".[40]

Social concerns

Apart from immigrants a large numbers smugglers regularly cross the porous border along West Bengal into India.[41] They mainly engage in smuggling goods and livestock from India into Bangladesh to avoid high tariff imposed on some Indian goods by Bangladesh government.[41] Bangladeshi women and girls are also trafficked to India and via India to Middle East for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation.[42] The Centre for Women and Children Studies estimated in 1998 that 27,000 Bangladeshis have been forced into prostitution in India.[43][44] According to CEDAW report, 1% of foreign prostitutes in India and 2.7% of prostitutes in Kolkata are from Bangladesh.[45]

See also


  1. 1 2 Census of India 2001. Data Highlights: Migration Tables. Pg 19
  2. "Migrations to India". Retrieved 7 June 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 "1. Population Explosion in West Bengal: A Survey". Archived from the original on 20 March 2012.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Illegal Migration into Assam".
  5. 2 cr Bangladeshis in India: Fernandes Tribune India - 27 September 2003
  6. Illegal Bangladeshi Immigration
  7. 1 2 3 Hans Günter Brauch; John Grin; Úrsula Oswald (2009). Facing Global Environmental Change: Environmental, Human, Energy, Food, Health and Water Security Concepts. Springer. p. 304. ISBN 3540684883.
  8. 1 2 "India's 'Mexican' Problem: Illegal Immigration from Bangladesh". Ibtimes. 2012-02-06.
  9. 1 2 Report by Sachar Committee, Appendix tables 3.1-3.5, Page:271-278
  10. "Census Reference Tables, C-Series Population by religious communities".
  11. Manorama yearbook 1998
  12. Manorama yearbook 2008
  13. India: Close The gap for Burmese refugees
  14. "Online Burma Library > Main Library > Refugees > Burmese refugees in India".
  15. "Survival, Dignity, and Democracy: Burmese Refugees in India, 1997 (From the SAHRDC Resource Centre)". line feed character in |title= at position 73 (help)
  16. 1 2 "'More illegal immigrants from Afghanistan than Pakistan'". Hindustan Times. 2011-11-14. Archived from the original on January 3, 2013.
  17. From 1979 to 1985: The Anti-Foreigners Movement in Assam
  18. "Nellie 1983".
  19. Full text of the accord
  20. "Tripartite talks to review the implementation of the Assam Accord held in New Delhi on 31.05.2000".
  21. "Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM)" (PDF).
  22. "India Ignores Illegal Migration In Northeast India, People Continue to Suffer".
  23. Making a 'menace' of migrants, Vir Sanghvi The Nation - 6 January 2006
  24. 22 illegal immigrants from Bangladesh held The Hindu - 9 October 2007
  25. Anandabazar Patrika, Bengali daily, Calcutta, 8 March 1995.
  26. "India as an Ostrich".
  27. Ministry of Home Affairs, Annual Report 2009-2010, p: 28
  28. "BBC NEWS - South Asia - India's battle to seal porous borders".
  29. "BBC NEWS - Programmes - From Our Own Correspondent - Villagers left in limbo by border fence".
  30. 1 2 "Left Front puts Nandigram land acquisition on hold". The Financial Express.
  31. "The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Editorial".
  32. The Bengal Borderland: Beyond State and Nation in South Asia By Willem van Schendel, Published 2005, Anthem Press
  33. "Differing population growth figure in West Bengal". The Times of India.
  34. "India News, Latest Sports, Bollywood, World, Business & Politics News - Times of India". The Times of India.
  35. Bangladeshi migrants giving cops the jitters Times of India Nov 10, 2011, 07.45PM IST
  36. "News Archives: The Hindu".
  38. 1 2 IMDT Act is the biggest barrier to deportation, says Supreme Court, The Hindu
  39. act arouses aggression: SC, Times of India
  40. "Illegal Bangladeshi immigrants threat to India: court". IBNLive.
  41. 1 2 World bank report
  42. "The World Factbook".
  43. Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation, Donna M. Hughes, Laura Joy Sporcic, Nadine Z. Mendelsohn and Vanessa Chirgwin
  44. Trafficking in Bangladeshi Women and Girls, by Bimal Kanti Paul; Syed Abu Hasnath, Geographical Review, p.268-276, April 2000
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