There always lies confusion among three words first, refugee; second stateless; and the third migrant. A refugee is a person who fled their country of origin of being persecuted on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, which makes it difficult to return.
A stateless person is a person who, under national laws, does not have the legal bond of nationality with any State. Article 1 of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons indicates that a person not considered a national (or citizen) automatically under the laws of any State, is stateless.
Migrants and refugees differ in their choices. Migrants migrate from country to country for their needs. Whereas, a refugee is a person forced to leave the country.
India has witnessed an enormous flow of refugees since the partition and thereafter it never ended. The chapter of refugees started after the partition when the people from India-Pakistan were forced or by choice has to adopt one of them. North-India especially Delhi was flooded with a huge influx of refugees. In fact, the number of refugees was so that an entire Faridabad city was turned into refugee camps.
The next, wave of refugees flowed from Tibet, was a decade after the partition when around lakhs of followers of Dalai Lama reached India. As a result, china government stood against India and attacked India 1962 also known as the Indo-Chino war which worsened the condition of India. Tibetans refugees settled in various parts of the Himachal Pradesh. In 1971 the Bangladesh and Pakistan were at war for the Bangladesh War of Independence which also led to the migration of more than 10 million people to North –East India which also lead to Assam- Andolan 1985. Assam- Andolan was led by the students of Assam to compel the Indian government to expel the illegal migrants which resulted in the National Register of Citizens who came to Assam between 1st January 1966 and up to 24 March 1971. India has been receiving refugees not only from the neighboring countries but also the countries like Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Uganda, Sudan, Somalia, and Uganda. India has always taken a liberal stands towards the refugee. According to the UNHRC reported of 209,234 of the increase in the number of refugees in the year 2016[i]. By July 2019, around 910,000 Rohingya had settled in Cox’s Bazar District, in southern Bangladesh. Those fleeing attacks and violence in that exodus joined around 300,000 people already in Bangladesh from previous waves of displacement, effectively forming the world’s largest refugee camp.
There has been not even one instance of refugees reported from Indian soil except at the time of 1947 Partition people. But every year Indian soil witnesses refugees from other countries than any other country base on its religion, cultural and linguistic popularity and diversity.
1951 Convention is based on Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Article 14 is the right to seek and enjoy asylum, from persecution, in any other country.
India didn’t sign the convention based on several reasons like giving narrow meaning to the word ‘refugee’, to escape obligation, to protect the sovereignty of the country, liberal Constitution of India, security, and India itself is the populated and developing nation and if people from outside will freely be allowed to take shelter in India it will lead the Indian origin as minority in their own country.
There are no domestic laws governing the refuges in India. The refugees in India are governed according to the Passport Act 1967 and the Foreigners Act of 1946. Under the constitution of India refugee get protection under Article 14 and Article 21. Article 14 talks about Equality before Law and Equal Protection of laws, which is available to the on-citizens as well whereas, Article 21 talks about the Life and Liberty of person.
India is also a signatory to UDHR which covers all the Human Rights of all the Humans in the world. India is also signatory to Executive Committee of the High Commissioners Program (EXCOM), UN Declaration of Territorial Asylum in 1967 and also ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 1976, UN conventions on the Rights of the child 1989, Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1974. When noticed from one angle India has signed all the important Conventions which protect the refugees. Nevertheless, it manages and administers all the activities related to temporary or permanent settlement of the refugee community.
Though India is a signatory to many conventions still there is a need to frame domestic policies for the refugees otherwise India should change its liberal attitude in providing asylum to the refugees. There have been cases where refugees are wrongfully detained, beaten, tortured and killed and they remain unreported
In one of the recent cases, a 12-year-old Rohingya refugee girl was badly raped by the Bangladeshi soldiers. When the parents of the victim reported the case the authorities denied the allegation and tortured the family.
The Kathua rape case is also one of the cases which show the shameless act by 6 Hindus who raped the 8-year-old girl Asifa Bano just to get rid of Muslim nomads, a tribe who resides in the Kashmiri region between India and Pakistan. She was brutally raped and killed and tortured for days. The case got international attention but later, the accused was arrested and imprisoned.
The major drawback to frame the refugee’s law is the political parties. If the government registers the illegal migrants they become answerable to the international agencies on their conditions. The second major issue in framing the refugee laws is to protect India from foreign invasion as it would be an arduous job to determine the identity of all and each person. Third, India is a developing nation which often fails to fulfill the basic needs of their own people in such situation responsibility of refuges can worsen the situation.
The need for a refugee law is immediate. The discriminatory and unequal conditions through which refugees have to go through is a shame on the humanitarian ground is a gross violation of human rights. Keeping in the list to the objections made by the government like that of security, poverty, etc. there can be many other ways through which their basic human needs can be guaranteed. The Rohingya refugees were issued the refugee card, alike, these refugees should be made to keep at their camps only, should provide with the small works, provide with the yearly or monthly session of health, hygiene, and basic right, monthly and quarterly inspection of refugee camps. The camps must be made an opportunity of works like handmade products, and in fact, charge a small sum of money from refugees as tax up to 100 Rs which can be used by the government for the development of refugees.
“The views of the authors are personal“
Frequently asked questions
What is unique about the refugees?
Refugees are specifically defined and protected in international laws. Refugees are the people who leave their own country after facing and going through persecution, conflict, violence, or such circumstances that they look for the nation for their own safety. India or many countries alike do not take a step to adopt the Refugee law just to avoid binding responsibility and answering to the international agencies.
How refugees are protected under International Laws?
Article 14 of the UDHR protects the rights of all the citizens irrespective of any discrimination. Article 14 gives the right to every human being equal right to seek and enjoy asylum. The provisions of the 1951 Convention remain the primary international standard against which any measures for the protection and treatment of refugees are judged. Its most important provision, the principle of non-refoulment (meaning no forced returns) contained in Article 33, is the bedrock of the regime. According to this principle, refugees must not be expelled or returned to situations where their life or freedom would be under threat. States bear the primary responsibility for this protection. UNHCR works closely with governments, advising and supporting them as needed, to implement their responsibilities.
Is refugee convention legally binding?
Yes, the refuge convention is legally binding but there is nobody that monitors compliance. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has supervisory responsibilities but cannot enforce convention against the states. There is no formal mechanism for individuals to file complaints.