CHENNAI: Indian diaspora grows steady and strong with India topping the list among countries whose citizens acquire foreign nationality, said a recent global study on migration, reported Times of India. Unknown to many, a tiny bit of this migration is driven by asylum-seekers from home who count among the biggest groups seeking refuge from ‘persecution’ in countries as far-flung as New Zealand (NZ) and Latvia.
According to the International Migration Outlook 2017 report on OECD member-nations, top asylum-seekers to NZ between 2012 and 2016 were from China, India, Fiji and Iraq. The country note for NZ says that in 2015-16, 340 people sought asylum in NZ. Among these, India and China were the largest source countries of asylum-seekers (11% and 9%), followed by Fiji (8%), Iraq (7%) and Pakistan (6%). Refugee status was granted in 110 cases (35%) in all. India was also among the top countries for asylum requests in 2016 for Australia, Finland, Japan, Latvia, Slovak Republic, UK and US, according to statistics.
Latvia, a small country in Europe with a population of 2 million, for instance, had 6,200 registered international students in 2015-2016, of which the largest proportion was from India and Uzbekistan at 18% each. According to experts, Indians requesting asylum there were either students who wanted to outstay their visas or others who were intercepted trying to enter the country.
“In Latvia, there were 20 applications for asylum, and there were 20 Indians caught trying to cross the border. They might be the same people,” says Jonathan Chaloff, policy analyst, International Migration Division at OECD.
Indians have sought asylum in more than 40 countries for several years now, reveals data from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Europe has historically seen a large number of applications from Indian asylum seekers – 6,300 in 2012 and 2013. The refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq, however, has changed the situation on the continent over the last couple of years.
Asylum applications from India despite a relatively calm political and economic situation – are due to factors ranging from students overstaying on their visas, low skilled job seekers trying to stay put in a high wage market, to refugees seeking resettlement, said experts.
Asked if Indian students who overstay their visas could apply for asylum, Chaloff says, “Yes, because it delays deportation. They have a chance of staying. They are also able to extend their stay while they wait for their application to be processed, even if it’s rejected.”
Gladston Xavier, head of the department of social work, Loyola College, who has worked with Sri Lankan refugees in India for several years, says number of applications for asylum may be high, but success rate may not be. “They have to prove threat to life because of race, religion, political belief, political affiliations or gender. If not, the Refugee Status Branch will turn down the request or keep the decision pending,” he says.
Vidya Mahambare, associate professor, economics and finance, Great Lakes Institute of Management in Chennai, says, “Asylum seekers from India may not be in the highskilled category. They may not have been able to get into good universities abroad and this may be the only alternative. India is a labour surplus country. Some may be looking for lower-end jobs abroad,” she added.
By and large though, Xavier says, “India is not a refugee producing state, we receive refugees.”
Story first published: 18th July 2017