In Charts: What the External Affairs Ministry Told Parliament About the Indian Diaspora

The eye-catching number that was submitted this time was about the number of Indian citizens who had given up their citizenship.

New Delhi: From the big number of 13 million Indians living abroad to listing which countries have seen Indians being sworn in as new citizens, the written replies by the Ministry of External Affairs to parliament questions have provided much-need granular data on the current status of the diaspora.

Here is a selection of the most interesting data sets that the Ministry of External Affairs included in written replies to lawmakers in the monsoon session which ended last Friday (August 11).

The eye-catching number that was submitted this time was about the number of Indian citizens who had given up their citizenship each year over the past decade.

The MEA has reported that according to records spanning from 2011 to the end of June 2023, a total of 1.75 million Indians have voluntarily relinquished their passports. Since India does not permit dual citizenship, surrendering their Indian passport becomes obligatory once individuals acquire citizenship of another country.

During the period from 2011 to 2019, there was a consistent upward trend in the number of Indians renouncing their citizenship annually. However, this trend nearly halved in 2020, a year marked by widespread lockdowns. The count of surrendered passports experienced a significant surge in 2021, reaching a record high of 225,620 in 2022. This notable increase can, of course, in part be attributed to pent-up demand.

Although it is unlikely that the current year will surpass the exceptional record set in 2022, the figures from the initial six months suggest that there will indeed be another substantial collection of surrendered Indian passports.

As the next map shows, Indians have acquired the citizenship of 135 countries over this period, ranging from the smallest country in the world, Vatican City, to the United States, and even the Pacific nation of Tonga.

While the MEA didn’t give the break-up of surrendered Indian passports for each country of the above data set, it has provided the specifics for a more limited timeframe of the past five years.

Responding to a similar question in the Rajya Sabha, the foreign ministry furnished a list categorised by country, detailing the instances of Indian citizenship renunciations spanning 2018 to June 2023.

Not surprisingly, the United States attracted the highest number of Indian citizens – accounting for nearly 40% of all surrenders of passport. Canada was a distant second, followed by Australia and the United Kingdom.

During that same period, 128 Indian nationals became Nepali citizens, followed by 106 of Sri Lanka and 69 of Pakistan. In East Asia, 2,442 Indian passports were surrendered to take up Chinese citizenship since 2018.

Yemen, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo each witnessed only a single instance of an Indian acquiring their nationality over the past five years.

How many NRIs are there?

According to the MEA, the most recent authoritative statistic for the count of Indian nationals residing overseas stands at 13.6 million as of 2022. The largest concentration is situated in the Gulf region, with North America in second place.

A significant population of Indian nationals was also found to be residing and employed in various other South Asian nations. Notably, Nepal alone hosted 600,000 Indian nationals according to figures from the previous year. Furthermore, as per the MEA’s response, there remained approximately 3,087 Indian nationals in Afghanistan until at least 2022, more than a year after the Taliban assumed control of the country.

The Indian Community Welfare Fund, operated by each Indian embassy or high commission, is financed through levies collected through consular services. Therefore, it is not surprising that the size of the diaspora is almost proportional to the collection of fees for ICWF, which is used for assistance for distressed citizens abroad.

While the UAE hosts the largest number of Indian nationals, it is pushed to the second place by the United States in the amount of fees collected for ICWF, as per the list maintained by the MEA. In total, Indian missions in 141 countries collected Rs 217 crore for the ICWF from 2020 to 2022.

While the diaspora keeps on increasing, there has also been a rise in the number of reported cases of illegal migration or human trafficking.

The MEA keeps track of undocumented migration, especially of blue collar workers to the 18 countries which require further Emigration Check Required (ECR) clearance.

As per the MEA’s reply, prosecution is pursued in only about 4% of the complaints forwarded to the state government.

In an answer to another question about the death of a Gujarati family while attempting to illegally cross the Canadian border, the MEA pointed to the low conviction rates in human trafficking cases. Referring to the records of the National Crime Records Bureau, the conviction rate in human trafficking cases was 22% in 2019, 10.6% in 2020 and 16% in 2021.