International migrants in India face many obstacles to integration under the slightly unfavourable policies in India. India’s policies place it in the bottom three of 56 MIPEX countries. India scores 24 on the 100-point MIPEX scale, while the average MIPEX scored 49/100. Among MIPEX countries, Indian policies are most similar to Indonesia’s. The obstacles facing migrants in India are greater than in the other Asian MIPEX countries.
India’s approach to integration is categorised by MIPEX as ‘immigration without integration’ because Indian policies refuse to recognise India as a country of immigration. Although immigrants are able to settle long-term in India, they are denied basic rights and equal opportunities to participate in society. In fact, access to basic rights and equal opportunities are weaker in India than in nearly all MIPEX countries.
India’s approach to integration matters because its policies influence whether or not integration works as a two-way process. The way that governments treat immigrants strongly influences how well immigrants and the public interact and think of each other. India’s current policies encourage the public to see immigrants as subordinates and foreigners.
Furthermore, many obstacles emerge for immigrants in nearly all areas of life in India, with the exception of family reunification and permanent residence policies. Anti-discrimination policies, health and political participation policies emerged as particularly unfavourable for integration. Compared to the situation in the other 56 MIPEX countries, international migrants in India are confronted with the weakest anti-discrimination policies and migrant health policies and some of the most unfavourable migrant education, nationality and political participation policies.
- Labour market mobility: Unfavourable: 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.
- Family reunification: Slightly favourable: Although many foreign citizens are favourably eligible to apply for their close family members, these reunited families are made entirely dependent on the sponsor for their integration.
- Education: Unfavourable: Like other countries with small numbers of foreign pupils, India does relatively little to encourage them across the education system or support diversity at school, although basic targeted support is available.
- Health: Unfavourable: 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.
- Political participation: Unfavourable: Immigrants are fully denied the opportunity to participate in public life in India, as foreign citizens have no right to vote, support or consultation by policymakers.
- Permanent residence: Halfway favourable: The path to permanent residence for newcomers in India is mainly linked to their ability to fulfil its economic requirements, but even permanent residents are denied equal treatment with Indian nationals in key areas of life like social security and assistance.
- Access to nationality: Unfavourable: The path to Indian citizenship is long (>10 years) and burdensome, as India has not followed international reform trends to open up dual nationality for foreign citizens or birthright citizenship entitlements or their Indian-born children.
- Anti-discrimination: Unfavourable: 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.