Biden, Sunak, Modi: How US, UK & India Are Welcoming & Ejecting Refugees Based On National Interest

This being the election time, many leading democratic countries such as India, the United States, and the United Kingdom are now increasingly confronted with what is called the “Weaponization of Demography,” which, in turn, has no exact rules or laws to be guided by. There has been no consistency on the part of any country on issues related to population changes within its boundaries because of immigration, whether legal or illegal. It is only geopolitics that matters.

As one writes this piece, former President Donald Trump is reported to have praised Hannibal Lecter, a fictional serial killer and cannibal from the Oscar-winning movie “The Silence of the Lambs,” while speaking of concerns over migration ahead of the Presidential elections in the U.S. At a rally in New Jersey on May 14, Trump claimed that migrants crossing the border were violent criminals as he went on to praise Lecter, calling him “a wonderful man.”

As it is, Trump’s diehard supporters make the point that the U.S. must devise a strong immigration system as there are as many as 11 million people who have no documents but are living in the country permanently, and there is no way they are going back.

So much so that Republican governors of Texas, Arizona, and Florida have put over 10,000 migrants from across the American borders on buses and planes to states like New York and Chicago,  ruled by Left-liberal Democrats who seemingly are soft on the problem.

The United Kingdom, where elections can be advanced anytime, has just adopted tough new immigration laws by passing them in Parliament. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is determined that his government will start deporting asylum seekers within weeks to the East African nation of Rwanda.

That, in turn, is creating problems for neighboring Ireland, as long-settled asylum seekers in Britain do not return to the continent they came from originally; they are crossing the checks-free border between Northern Ireland (a British territory) and Ireland, a constituent of the European Union that allows open borders.

So much so that a report says that “as Britain ramps up efforts to deter asylum seekers, one politically explosive repercussion is that across the Irish Sea, parts of Dublin are being turned into foul-smelling refugee camps.”

Incidentally, migration is becoming a sensitive issue in other parts of Europe as well. France reportedly receives 150,000 additional immigrants every year. Southern European nations such as Italy, Spain, and Portugal are experiencing domestic disturbances following the steady inflow of immigrants. In the North, though Germany, Sweden, and Norway opened their borders to refugees not long ago, they are seemingly backtracking now.

In India, which is now in the midst of general elections, immigrants have become an electoral issue. The DMK, the governing party of the southern state of Tamil Nadu and an important constituent of the grand alliance of opposition parties against Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised that if voted to power, the new Union government will grant Indian citizenship to the long-camped Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka.

This alliance is also very soft on Rohingya immigrants from neighboring Myanmar, whom the Modi government wants to deport back to Myanmar, where they face severe ethno-religious persecution.

The Modi government also lambasts the state government in West Bengal, whose leader, Mamata Banerjee, is also a tall leader of the opposition alliance, that it is changing the demography of the border state by legitimizing the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The opposition alliance is also making the Modi government’s tweaking of the citizen laws that fast-track the citizenship process of the non-Muslim but religiously persecuted immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. It promises to annul this new law (CAA) made by the Modi government as it discriminates against Muslims and hence is communal.

But all this is one part of the story. The other part deals with inconsistencies shown by the above countries with regard to the issue of migration. Take the case of India again. Though it does not have any formal refugee policy, the fact remains that it wholeheartedly welcomed Tibetan refugees and allowed the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, allocating land for refugees and setting up Tibetan schools in other parts of the country.

The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Jawaharlal Nehru and Zhou Enlai in 1956 in India. (Wikimedia)

Similarly, in 1971, India housed ten million Bangladeshi refugees to secure its own security interests in its war against Pakistan, which led to the creation of Bangladesh as a sovereign country.  That many of them did not return to their newly created country, something that was accepted by the state of West Bengal but resented by the neighboring state of Assam is a different matter.

Europe is now set to tighten domestic laws to deal with the immigration problem. But at the same time, it is welcoming immigrants from Ukraine following the Russian invasion without resulting in any domestic discords. It seems that for many European countries, whereas Muslim immigrants from Africa and the Middle East are proving problematic, those from Ukraine are more than wanted.

Reportedly, more than six million Ukrainians have fled their country since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022, with 93% of those who have left now residing in Europe. The European Union is said to have adopted the “temporary protection” mechanism, granting special rights to Ukrainians by enabling them to work, reside, and access education and medical assistance.

But as Matilde Rosina,  a Lecturer in Global Challenges at Brunel University London and a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics, has rightly pointed out, the EU is not showing the same leniency to those who are or want to flee Russia to escape “Putin’s autocracy.”

The sanctions adopted by the EU against Russia include the suspension of a visa facilitation agreement. This means that it is now more difficult and costly for Russian people to obtain a visa to travel to the EU.

File Image: Zelensky and Macron

“On the one hand, by welcoming Ukrainians, the EU sent a strong message to Ukraine, Russia, and the international community that the EU stands in solidarity with Kyiv. On the other hand, by restricting entry for Russians, it underscored Moscow’s condemnation and isolation”, argues Rosina. Her conclusion is that the EU used its migration policy for strategic purposes.

Throughout its recent history, the U.S. has also been guided by its strategic interests in dealing with the issue of immigration. Experts point out how overcoming concerns about national security and changing selective immigration “quota acts,” Washington allowed massive immigration of Europeans, including Jews, from Europe soon after the end of World War II. Following the 1956 revolution in Hungary against the then-Soviet Union, thousands of displaced Hungarians were brought to the U.S.

However, the same leniency was not shown to over half a million people who were violently displaced during the Korean War that the U.S. participated in. In fact, anti-Asian sentiment and exclusion in American immigration policy was the order of the day.

It was only after the end of the Vietnam War, which was also fought by the U.S., that more than 300,000 refugees fleeing violence in Southeast Asia were admitted to the American mainland. And this trend has been maintained after the American troops withdrew from Afghanistan.

More than 76,000 Afghans have reportedly been brought to the U.S., and measures have been introduced to provide additional support and a pathway to permanent residency.


It is thus clear that countries have opened their doors to immigrants while considering their national or geopolitical interests. The process has been selective and conditioned by the prevailing geopolitical factors, including scientific and technological manpower (human capital).

Against this background, U.S. President Joe Biden’s recent comment that “xenophobia” is stifling the economic growth of countries like Japan, China, and India is half true.

The U.S. has been highly discerning in whom to welcome. It has, no doubt, attracted the best minds and talents from the rest of the world. But the same cannot be said about the unskilled, poverty-stricken immigrants or victims of climate change from the developing world.

Otherwise, the Biden Administration would have undone many of the restrictive immigration policies of the previous Trump Administration, particularly those regarding the exodus from Mexico and other parts of Latin America.

Trump is not apologetic about his views on the issue, but Biden does not seem to be brave enough to challenge his principal challenger’s views boldly. After all, America’s geopolitical interests are involved.

  • Author and veteran journalist Prakash Nanda is Chairman of the Editorial Board – EurAsian Times and has commented on politics, foreign policy, and strategic affairs for nearly three decades. A former National Fellow of the Indian Council for Historical Research and recipient of the Seoul Peace Prize Scholarship, he is also a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. 
  • CONTACT: prakash.nanda (at)
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Prakash Nanda
Author and veteran journalist Prakash Nanda has been commenting on Indian politics, foreign policy on strategic affairs for nearly three decades. A former National Fellow of the Indian Council for Historical Research and recipient of the Seoul Peace Prize Scholarship, he is also a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. He has been a Visiting Professor at Yonsei University (Seoul) and FMSH (Paris). He has also been the Chairman of the Governing Body of leading colleges of the Delhi University. Educated at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, he has undergone professional courses at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Boston) and Seoul National University (Seoul). Apart from writing many monographs and chapters for various books, he has authored books: Prime Minister Modi: Challenges Ahead; Rediscovering Asia: Evolution of India’s Look-East Policy; Rising India: Friends and Foes; Nuclearization of Divided Nations: Pakistan, Koreas and India; Vajpayee’s Foreign Policy: Daring the Irreversible. He has written over 3000 articles and columns in India’s national media and several international dailies and magazines. CONTACT: