India’s Legal Legislation for Refugees

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The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recently held a discussion on “protection of the essential human rights of refugees and asylum seekers in India”.

Many participants raised the difficulty of India not having a selected law for refugees and asylum-seekers.

The discussion noted that, though India has not signed the global organization Refugee Convention, 1951, the refugees and asylum seekers are entitled to the rights in Articles 14 (Right to Equality ), 20 (Protection with reference to Conviction of Offences) and 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution.

India’s Refugee Policy

India lacks specific legislation to handle the matter of refugees, in spite of their increasing inflow.

India isn't a celebration to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, the key legal documents regarding refugee protection.

Moreover, the Foreigners Act, 1946, fails to deal with the peculiar problems faced by refugees as a category.

It also gives unbridled power to the Central government to deport any foreign citizen.

In spite of not being a celebration to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, India has had a stellar record on the difficulty of refugee protection.

India incorporates a moral tradition for assimilating foreign people and culture.

Further, the constitution of India also respects the life, liberty, and dignity of kith and kin.

The Supreme Court within the National Human Rights Commission vs. State of Arunachal Pradesh (1996) held that “while all rights are available to citizens, persons including foreign citizens are entitled to the correct to equality and therefore the right to life, among others.”

Further, Article 21 of the Constitution encompasses the correct of non-refoulement.

Non-refoulement is that the principle under law which states that an individual fleeing persecution from his own country mustn't be forced to return to his own country.

India didn’t Framed a Law on Refugees Yet

Refugees vs Immigrants: within the recent past, many folks from neighboring countries tend to illegally immigrate to India, not due to state persecution but in search of higher economic opportunities in India.

While the truth is that much of the talk within the country is about illegal immigrants, not refugees, the 2 categories tend to urge bunched together.

Misuse of Law: Such a law can be misused by anti-nationals, terrorists and criminal elements and it might cause a financial burden on the country.

Open Scope of Maneuver: Absence of legislation has allowed India to stay its options open on the question of refugees. the govt. can declare any set of refugees as illegal immigrants.

This was the case that went on with Rohingya (They are stateless, Indo-Aryan grouping who reside in Rakhine State, Myanmar), despite the UNHCR verification, the govt. decided to cater to them as trespassers under the Foreigners Act or the Indian Passport Act.

India’s account on refugees

Chakma tribals

In 1947, the Chittagong Hill Tracts, a deeply forested, mountainous, area bordering Tripura, Mizoram and Myanmar, with a majority Buddhist population (about 97 per cent), was awarded to Pakistan.

In 1962, the Pakistani government imposed further misery on the Chakma tribe by building the Kaptai dam.

Approximately 40,000 Chakma tribals, who had lost their homes and farmland because of flooding, emigrated to India as refugees.

India, facing its own war in 1962 on the north-eastern border, offered 2,902 Chakma refugee families resettlement in Arunachal Pradesh.

By the 1980s, anti-immigrant stirs in nearby Assam, together with local fears about demographic change, led to defamatory notices appearing. Soon, houses started burning — in 1983 and 1995, 130 houses were burnt down in Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh.

Only in 1996, with the Supreme Court pushing the government to guard the Chakmas, did the harassment decline.

The long journey continued — only in September 2015 when the Supreme Court directed the Centre and government to finish the method of citizenship did the initial 7,000 surviving Chakmas and Hajongs gain access to Indian citizenship. Despite choosing India during the Partition, the Chakmas were routinely ignored, then and now.


The Rohingyas, an grouping from the Rakhine state in Myanmar, are one among the foremost persecuted groups in the world.

Over 13,000 Rohingya refugees are registered with the UN diplomat for Refugees (UNHCR) in India,

They sleep in substandard conditions with none basic amenities, while their children cannot get admitted in schools thanks to lack of requisite documentation. Most men function daily wage labourers.

Need for a law on Refugees

Long-term Practical Solution: India frequently experiences an outsized influx of refugees. Therefore, a long-term practical solution requires that India make a shift from its charitable approach to a rights-based approach by enacting a national refugee law.

Adhering to Human Rights: A national refugee law will streamline refugee- status determination procedures for every kind of refugees and can guarantee them the rights they need under law of nations.

Addressing Security Concerns: It could sufficiently address India’s security concerns, while at the identical time ensuring that there's no unlawful detention or deportation distributed within the garb of national-security concerns.

Inconsistency within the Treatment of Refugees: the majority of the refugee population in India originates from country, Tibet, Myanmar and Afghanistan.

However, only Tibetan and Sri Lankan refugees are recognised in and of itself by the govt.. they're provided protection and assistance directly through specific policies and rules formulated by the govt.

India still remains a non-signatory to 1951 world organization Refugee Convention and also the 1967 Protocol, which help define the legal obligation of states to safeguard refugees.

Any refugee, whose grant of asylum has been approved, should run a proper recognition of his/her asylum status together with an identity document and a travel document.

They should be ready to apply for residence permits, and be ready to choose their place of residence across India. Their documents must also enable them to hunt employment within the private sector.

Primary education, a strong enabler, should be offered on no-charge basis in government schools, while primary healthcare services available to Indian citizens should be offered moreover.

Simply announcing policies alone won't do. Social sensitisation remains key — institutions, private and public, should be encouraged to recognise UNHCR-issued refugee cards, additionally to foreign 

degrees or diplomas.

Local municipal corporations should be asked to sensitise neighbourhood associations to just accept refugees who pays, together with conducting integration workshops for youth and girls empowerment initiatives.

Outreach should be conducted through government welfare programmes and biometric initiatives like Aadhaar, additionally to an easier registration process.

Revision of Model Laws by Expert Committee: Model laws on asylum and refugees that were drafted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) decades ago but not implemented by the govt. might be revised by an expert committee.

If such laws are enacted, it might give legal sanctity and uniformity, ensuring the protection of human rights.

We need a system that allows the management of refugees with greater transparency and accountability, replacing one that gives arbitrary decision-making to a vulnerable, victimised population. While the protection interests of India must remain paramount, taking care of refugees in India may be a moral duty for the state.