Long term policy to address illegal immigration required

Witoubou Newmai


The growing ineffectiveness in addressing the issue of ‘illegal immigration’ in our region can only be reversed when we are prepared to go beyond the slogans and rhetoric. This seeming surfeit of energy and enthusiasm, found in our ‘campaign’ against the issue of ‘illegal immigration’, which is bereft of required materials, should be re-looked, reviewed and reshaped for one more time. This problem is fast scaling up to a new height over time, thereby bringing conflicts and tensions in the region.


To begin with, that attitude of aversion to planning or long term policy making based on well founded materials needs to be changed. In other words, we need to recognize with the nerve of urgency that, our inability to stretch the ‘campaign’ beyond the sporadic and knee-jerk response has ruffled the atmosphere. We are only promoting melodrama and theatrics as long as we respond only to the ‘immediate’ and not willing to go beyond it with well co-ordinated soft measures for continuity.


There is not an iota of doubt that there is a presence of ‘illegal immigrants’, especially from Bangladesh and Myanmar, in large number in our region. And we have been talking of these ‘illegal immigrants’ for decades. However, in want of needed mechanism and continuity to check the influx of these migrants into our region from the two neighbouring countries the issue remains unaddressed till today. The issue is bound to dominate our region as it carries potentials to bring cataclysmic eventuality which will encompass everything. In other words, this issue is bound to be the central and most dangerous dimension of the very near future. Even then, this  thing is yet to strike a nerve in concerned authorities of the region.


Today, we are gripped with heightened apprehension as events unfurl in the Rakhine State of Myanmar. The Rohingya issue is a man-made situation which is still much easier to handle, and much simpler, if we have to think of the impact of global warming in low-lying Bangladesh in the near future.


Bangladesh has started getting the pinch of sea-level rising due to global warming. The country which is considered to be one of the most crowded countries in the world is not a happy place today. If displacement of few lakhs of Rohingyas can trigger so much of catastrophic stories, then, our preparedness to face the global warming impact/sea level rising affecting Bangladesh, a country of over 16 crore population, is still next to nothing. This is not a rhetorical statement anymore.


Our region has seen enough of catastrophic scenes because of the ‘illegal immigration’ issue. The Nellie Massacre can be a good case in point. Over two thousand people were killed in a span of just a six-hour pogrom in this central Assam (Nellie) in 1983. Though the immediate cause for the pogrom was something to do with elections, conflicts for years between local people and Bangladeshi immigrants present in Assam was the main reason.


The test for us at the moment is how soon we can formulate effective policies provided by deeper and fuller materials to address the issue.