Press Note - For a Better Inclusion of Internal Migrants in India:The Millions Who Cannot Exercise Their Rights
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Press Note - For a Better Inclusion of Internal Migrants in India:The Millions Who Cannot Exercise Their Rights

New Delhi, 18 December 2012: In India, as per Census 2001[1], internal migration accounts for a large population of 309 million, or nearly 30 percent of the total population.

Internal migrants, of which 70.7 percent are women, are excluded from the economic, cultural, social and political lives of society and are often treated as second-class citizens.

The constraints faced by migrants are many - lack of formal residency rights; lack of identity proof; lack of political representation; inadequate housing; low-paid, insecure or hazardous work; limited access to state-provided services such as health and education and discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, class or gender.

The difficulties faced by internal migrants in India are dismissed on the grounds that the Constitution does not restrict free mobility within the country.  A growing misunderstanding of the migratory phenomenon is often at the root of misconceived policies or inaction regarding migration.

In the absence of proofs of identity and residence, internal migrants are unable to claim social protection entitlements and remain excluded from government sponsored schemes and programmes. 

Children face disruption of regular schooling, adversely affecting their human capital formation and contributing to the inter-generational transmission of poverty.  Further, migrants are negatively portrayed as a “burden“ to society, discouraged from settling down and  excluded from urban planning initiatives.

“Internal migrants positively contribute to society. There is an urgent need to build awareness on internal migration and adopt a human rights-based approach for migrant inclusion in society”, said Mr. Shigeru Aoyagi, Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka, on the occasion of Migrants Day 2012 being observed nationwide today.

Most internal migrants are denied basic rights, yet internal migration is given very low priority by the government in policy and practice, partly due to a serious knowledge gap on its extent, nature and magnitude.

“Internal migration is an integral part of development and should be recognized as such” said Mr. Louis-Georges Arsenault, UNICEF India Representative. “Since internal migration has cross-cutting sectoral impact, multiple interventions are needed by Ministries, departments, key destination states and lead source states for peaceful integration of migrants in society.”

 The overlapping of poverty and internal migration is clearly reflected  with high poverty levels found in most  lead source states: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa.

Some of the strategies that need to be adopted to ensure a better inclusion of internal migrants in society include mainstreaming internal migration in a comprehensive manner in policy and national development plans; generating reliable data on all  facets of internal migration, particularly on short-term migration and multiple reasons for migration; developing portability of benefits in all government social protection schemes and public services; outlining gender-sensitive and age-sensitive policies and practices for migrants; developing a child-sensitive focus in data and approaches to migration;  providing support services for migrants at the source and destination areas and increasing representation of migrants in decision-making processes.

On the occasion of International Migrants Day, UNESCO and UNICEF are releasing their recent publications on internal migration in India, resulting from the National Workshop on Internal Migration and Human Development in India and the Internal Migration in India Initiative (IMII) launched in 2011.

The Internal Migration in India Initiative is now an informal network of 200 researchers, NGO’s, policy makers, UN agencies and key partners, such as Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, UN Women, UN-HABITAT and International Organization for Migration (IOM), determined to raise the profile of internal migration in India and to propose policy changes and creative practices for a better inclusion of internal migrants in the economic, social, political and cultural life of the country.

Download publications at:

Note for Editors:

UNESCO-UNICEF Publications:

Policy Briefs: For a Better Inclusion of Internal Migrants in India

UNESCO and UNICEF, in collaboration with researchers, NGO’s and other UN agencies, developed a set of seven policy briefs, which provide in a concise manner key facts and policy recommendations for the central as well as state governments for the elaboration of more inclusive social policies and practices:

Overview of Internal Migration in India/ Internal Migration and Human Development/ Internal Migration and Social Protection: The Missing Link/ Internal Migration and the Right to the City/ Internal Migration and Gender/ Internal Migration and Children/ Internal Migration and the Right to Education.

National Workshop on Internal Migration and Human Development in India, Workshop Compendium, Vol. 1: Workshop Report

Volume 1 of the Workshop Compendium captures the complexity of the internal migration phenomenon in India, outlining key concepts and major trends, and providing key policy recommendations to protect and promote migrants’ access to social services, but also to enable migrants to become socially and politically active citizens.

National Workshop on Internal Migration and Human Development in India, Workshop Compendium, Vol. 2: Workshop Papers

Volume 2 of the Workshop Compendium comprises eight research papers presented at the workshop, which reflect several critical aspects of the internal migration phenomenon:

  • Internal Migration in India: An Overview of its Features, Trends and Policy Challenges, Ravi S. Srivastava
  • Migration and Human Development in India: New Challenges and Opportunities, Priya Deshingkar and Matteo Sandi
  • Migrants’ (Denied) Right to the City, Ram B. Bhagat
  • Children’s Agency, Autonomy and Migration, Ann Whitehead
  • Gender and Migration in India, Indu Agnihotri, Indrani Mazumdar and Neetha N.
  • Internal Migrants and Social Protection in India: The Missing Links, Ravi S. Srivastava
  • Creative Practices and Policies for Better Inclusion of Migrant Workers: The Experience of Aajeevika Bureau, Rajiv Khandelwal, Amrita Sharma and Divya Varma
  • Migrant’s (Denied) Access to Health Care in India, Anjali Borhade

[1] Data from Census of India 2001 is cited (data from Census 2011 is not available)

For more information and interviews, contact

Caroline den Dulk, Chief, Advocacy & Partnerships, UNICEF India.
Mobile: +91-98-181-06093

Maria Fernandez, Communication Specialist, UNICEF India.

Geetanjali Master, Communication Specialist, UNICEF India.

Sonia Sarkar. Communication Officer, UNICEF India.
Mobile: +91-98-10170289

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