The refugee migration began with the partition of India in 1947, and by the start of 2010, the country had accommodated about 450,000 refugees from within and beyond the area.

India is not a signatory to either the 1951 Refugee Conference or its 1967 Protocol on Refugees’ status. There is no consistency in the handling of refugees in India since there is no refugee legislation.

Nevertheless, refugee law has grown intimately intertwined with the broader issues of human rights and humanitarian law, as well as other areas of international law such as state responsibility and peacekeeping.

What is India's current legislative framework for dealing with refugees?

India handles all foreigners, whether they are illegal immigrants, refugees/asylum seekers, or those who have overstayed their visas, equally.

  • Section 3 of the Foreigners Act of 1946 empowers the Central Government to discover, arrest, and expel unauthorised foreign nationals.
  • Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920: Section 5 allows authorities to remove an unlawful foreigner by force under Article 258(1) of the Indian Constitution.
  • The Registration of Foreigners Act of 1939 requires all foreign persons (except Indian residents living abroad) entering India on a long-term visa (lasting more than 180 days) to register with a Registration Officer within 14 days of their arrival.
  • The Citizenship Act of 1955 established procedures for renunciation, termination, and loss of citizenship.
  • Furthermore, the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 (CAA) intends to offer citizenship solely to Hindu, Christian, Jain, Parsi, Sikh, and Buddhist immigrants who have faced persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, who arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014..

India created a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for all interested authorities to follow while dealing with foreigners claiming to be refugees.

The Indian Constitution also protects human life, liberty, and dignity.

  • In National Human Rights Commission vs. State of Arunachal Pradesh (1996), the Supreme Court decided that while all rights are available to citizens, everyone, including foreign citizens, has the right to equality and the right to life.

What is the current situation of refugees in India?

India has absorbed different groups of refugees from neighboring nations since its independence, including:

  • Refugees from Pakistan during partition in 1947.
  • Tibetan refugees arrived in 1959.
  • Chakma and Hajong from Bangladesh in the early 1960s.
  • Other Bangladeshi exiles arrived between 1965 and 1971.
  • Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka since the 1980s
  • Most recently, Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.

What's the Distinction Between Refugees and Migrants?

  • Refugees are people living outside their home nations who require international protection because they face a substantial threat to their life, bodily integrity, or freedom in their home country as a consequence of persecution, armed conflict, violence, or serious public disturbance.
  • Migrants leave their home nation to work, study, or start a family.
  • There is no universally recognized legal definition of a migrant.

Why is India refusing to sign the 1951 Refugee Convention?

  • Problem with the Definition of Refugee: Refugees, according to the 1951 convention, are those who have been denied their civil and political rights but not their economic rights.
  • If economic rights violations were included in the definition of a refugee, the developed world would undoubtedly bear a significant burden.
  • Eurocentrism: India believes the 1951 treaty is primarily focused on Europe and ignores South Asian countries. It will also have an impact on India's safety and domestic legislation.

What are the difficulties facing refugees in India?

  • Fear and insecurity: Refugees are undervalued in society. They are mistreated by the locals, and they acquire a sense of fear and insecurity as a result.
  • They are frequently exploited physically and mentally by local inhabitants only because they are not citizens of the same soil.
  • Depleted of Fundamental Needs: They struggle to get basic living essentials such as food, housing, and job.
  • They are compelled to work for low wages and have little or no legal status or privileges.
  • Deficiency of a Clear Framework for Their Security: India's ad hoc administrative policy on refugees has produced a confusing environment.
  • Insecurity and exclusivity are caused by a lack of understanding and disinformation among refugee populations.
  • Identification Procedure Is Time Demanding: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees provides a refugee card as part of the refugee status determination process, although this process is time-consuming and can take up to 20 months to complete.
  • If they are apprehended by the police during that time, they will be arrested, jailed, and deported without even having access to the UNHCR.
  • Misidentified as Immigrants: Over the last few decades, many people from neighboring countries have illegally emigrated to India, not because of state persecution, but to take advantage of greater economic prospects.
  • For example, the United States is home to 98% of all Mexican immigrants, totaling more than 10.9 million (legal and undocumented) migrants.
  • True, much of the controversy in India is about illegal immigrants rather than refugees, but the two categories are often lumped together.

The Next Step

  • Equitable and Effective Registration Procedures: Procedures for determining status should be made more equitable and effective while improving or preserving registration and identification criteria.
  • Improving Basic Facilities: Basic services and necessities should be available.
  • These include expanding educational opportunities, strengthening programs for those with special needs, and preserving healthcare facilities.
  • Local Residents' Awareness: Ensuring community engagement in giving housing to refugees and enhancing their self-reliance ability by providing them with a temporary livelihood through awareness programs.
  • Ensure the Safety of Women and Children: Protecting women and children refugees from violence and harassment by authorities or local inhabitants, in accordance with our Constitution's Fundamental Duty.
  • Article 51A (e) calls on all citizens to abstain from behaviours that are insulting to women's dignity.
  • Emotional Support: A person becomes a refugee due to circumstances beyond his or her control.
  • He or she is fleeing human rights violations, socioeconomic and political uncertainty, and the fear of persecution. In this case, we should strive to provide inclusiveness and emotional support in addition to financial assistance.