Recording Biometrics of ‘Illegal Migrants: An Overview

Recording Biometrics of 'Illegal Migrants: An Overview

Centre to record the biometrics of “illegal migrants”.

Context:

Ajay Kumar Bhalla, the Union Home Secretary, had requested the state governments of Manipur and Mizoram to collect “biographic and biometric details of illegal migrants” days before ethnic violence broke out in Manipur. The biometric data will comprise fingerprint, iris, and retinal scans.

Where are these illegal immigrants from?

  • Following a military takeover in Myanmar in February 2021, Mizoram became the destination for thousands of Myanmarese refugees. Additionally, 4,000 refugees arrived in Manipur. The Kuki-Chin-Zo ethnic group, which has strong linkages to populations in Mizoram and Manipur, makes up the majority of these refugees. For the refugees, the Mizoram government set up relief camps.

Who are the Kuki-Chin-Zo ethnic groups?

  • Kuki-Chin-Zo: The Zo people are an ethnic group that can be found in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts, Myanmar, and India. They are also known by other names, such as Chin, Mizo, and Kuki, depending on where they are from and what dialects they speak.
  • Common Origin: The Zo people belong to the Kuki-Chin ethnic group and have a common ancestry. They are thought to have come from a region called Sinlung, also called Chhinlung, Khur, Khul, and other names that are related.
  • Dispersal across countries: British colonial practises contributed to the dispersal of the Zo people across international frontiers. Political factors were taken into account when drawing the borders rather than concerns of ethnicity.
  • Geographic Distribution: The Zo people can be found in a variety of places across the world. They can be found in the northeastern Indian states of Tripura, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya, and Assam. They live mainly in Chin State, Sagaing Division, and Arakan State in Myanmar. They can be found in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts.
  • Dialects: More than fifty dialects of the Kuki-Chin language family are spoken by the Zo people. The dialects are a reflection of the linguistic diversity among the several Zo people subgroups. The vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar of these dialects might differ greatly.

What is India’s Policy on Refugees?

  • Absence of particular legislation:
    •  India lacks a thorough legal system specifically devoted to resettling refugees.
    • The determination of refugee status, rights, and protection are not covered by any explicit laws.
  • Non-party to the 1951 Refugee Convention: 
    • Neither the 1951 Refugee Convention nor its 1967 Protocol are signed by India.
    • The commitments contained in these international treaties are not binding on India because it is a non-party to them.
  • Assimilation and humanitarian tradition: 
    • India has a long history of welcoming and assimilating refugees.
    • Throughout its history, the nation has hosted and helped several refugee communities.
    • India’s cultural values and moral legacy are the foundation of this humanitarian strategy.
  • Constitutional safeguards:
    • All people, including those who are not citizens, are guaranteed fundamental rights by the Indian Constitution.
    • The right to equality and the right to life are just two examples of the fundamental rights that non-citizens, including refugees, are guaranteed by the Supreme Court.
  • Right to non-refoulement: 
    • The right to life, which incorporates the idea of non-refoulement, is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
    • The principle of non-refoulment forbids the deportation of people to their native countries where they might experience persecution or dangers to their life or freedom.
  • Ad hoc policies and measures: 
    • To control refugee inflows, India has used ad hoc policies and measures.
    • On a case-by-case basis, refugees from particular nations or regions have received temporary housing, documentation, and restricted support.
    • Depending on the refugees’ country of origin and current situation, different actions are used.

What are the existing laws that India has to address refugees?

  • Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920: This act gave the government the authority to enact regulations mandating that everyone entering India must have a passport. Additionally, it gave the government permission to expel anyone who entered India without a passport.
  • Foreigners Act of 1946: This law replaced the Foreigners Act of 1940 and gave the government broad authority over foreign nationals. It gave the government the authority to take the necessary actions, including using force if necessary, to stop illegal immigration. According to the Supreme Court, the onus of proof for establishing one’s status as a foreigner is on the individual.
  • Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964 (amended in 2019): The authority to create tribunals to determine whether a person residing in India unlawfully is a foreigner or not was enhanced by this change. Initially, only the government had this authority, but thanks to the amendment, district judges in all States and Union Territories can now create these tribunals as well.
  • Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939:Foreign nationals visiting India on a long-term visa (more than 180 days) are required by the Registration of Foreigners Act of 1939 to register with a Registration Officer within 14 days of arrival, except for Indian citizens living abroad. No of how long they plan to stay, Pakistani nationals visiting India must register within 24 hours.

What are the concerns that government have?

  • Security: The government is frequently worried about potential hazards to national security from receiving refugees. They might be concerned that terrorists or criminals could infiltrate refugee populations and endanger our nation.
  • Impact on the economy: The cost of resettling refugees may worry the government. They can be concerned about the burden placed on government services like healthcare, education, and social welfare systems. Concerns about heightened job rivalry and its implications on pay may exist.
  • Social cohesion: The state might be worried about the cohesiveness of its citizens. They can be concerned that there would be social difficulties, discrimination, or confrontations as a result of potential cultural and religious differences between the host population and the refugees.
  • Legal and administrative issues: The management of refugee populations may present legal and administrative issues for the government. This covers matters including assessing a person’s status as a refugee, handling asylum claims, offering legal help, and ensuring conformity with domestic and international laws.

What steps did Indian Government take recently as a Precaution?

  • The state administrations of Manipur and Mizoram received a letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs on June 22. The letter gave them the go-ahead to take retina, iris, and fingerprint scans as well as other biographic and biometric information from unauthorised immigrants. It was decided that this exercise will be finished by September 30.
  • In a letter to the state governments of Manipur and Mizoram, the Ministry of Home Affairs stressed the importance of collecting the biometric information of undocumented immigrants and emphasised the need for action now.
  • The letter from the Ministry referred to earlier directives and directions on overstaying visas and unauthorised immigration of foreign people. On March 30, 2021, these regulations were first released, and on October 21, 2022, they were once again distributed to all state governments for compliance.
  • The governments of Manipur and Mizoram designated Nodal Officers to help with the process, and they were tasked with entering the collected data into the central portal on illegal immigrants kept up by the Bureau of Immigration and the Ministry of Home Affairs.