Special Report – Refugees in India: Guests of Destiny
- Refugee, as defined under International law, means a person forced to leave his/her country in order to escape war, persecution or a Natural Disaster. These are the people outside their home country because they suffered or feared persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or because they are fleeing a war. They may be called asylum seekers until recognized by the state.
- The UNHCR says, during 2013, on an average 32,200 individual were forced to flee their homes every day and most of them never returned. In 2013, 98400 refugees were resettled in 21 countries including India.
As on Jan 1, 2014:
- Global refugees= 16.7 million
- Asylum seekers= 1.2 million
- Internally displaced= 33.3 million
- For the 1st time since the 2nd World War the global figure for refugee has passed the number of 52 Million by the end of 2013.
- This is a Human Catastrophe and should be swiftly tackled by the UN.
- The United Nation’s multilateral treaty or a convention relating to the status of refugees is a legal document that defines refugee. The convention was approved at a special UN’s conference on 28th july, 1951 and came into force on 22nd April 1954.
- Further in 19567 the protocol was agreed to remove geographical and temporal restrictions from the convention. It sets out the rights of individuals granted asylum and the responsibilities of the Nations that grant asylum.
Situation in India:
- There are millions of people seeking refuge in India who are forced to escape from violence in their native place.
- In Delhi alone, a city with an approximate population of 1.67 crore, about twenty five thousand people from various countries live as refugees. They remain in miserable conditions, entangled in legal framework with no option to work legally. Over 11,000 refugees in Delhi are from Afghanistan, 14, ooo from Myanmar and 700 from Somalia. This is in addition to settlers from Iraq, Syria Palestine and countless Legal and Illegal migrants from Neighbouring countries.
- The government needs to rethink about the refugees in India, their problems and needs. There are also questions regarding the burden on the exchequer and the need of a legal system to handle it.
- UNHCR card is the only identity these people have as India has no separate law to govern the refugees.
- Ever since India gained freedom there has been continuous inflow of refugees. We are hosting number of asylum seekers and their number is swelling.
- Countries like India that believe in peace, harmony and global brotherhood are a natural haven for refugees.
- India is not a signatory to the UN convention of 1951 and the protocol of 1967. But despite this India is among the top 20 countries of the world that host the largest number of refugees.
- According to an estimate, India is professionally hosting refugees from almost 70 nations.
- The GOI has allowed refugees to apply for long term visas. That will help refugees to have a proper status in India.
Problems being faced by Refugees:
- Refugees too face many problems. Some homeless women and girls face sexual violence.
- With minimum laws to protect them, India is not an easy place for refugees. The only thing that the Government provides is security.
- Their struggle to fulfil their basic needs is an unending Battle.
- Misery of the refugees, all over world, remains the same.
Problems being faced by the Host Nations:
- This has become a Global Problem now.
- This is a problem for both Developed as well as the Developing Nations.
- For India, this has been a perennial problem.
- Most of the Nations do not have resources to provide basic needs for these victims. So, the refugees are turned back to their homes or left to face their distress alone.
- Huge burden on the exchequer.
Causes for the Increase in number of Refugees:
- Developed Nations Meddling in the affairs of 3rd world Nations is a major reason behind the rising number of Global Refugees. Wars are often imposed on the 3rd world Nations for one reason or the other.
- Wars result in human relocation but when it comes to sharing the burden, no one comes forward.
- Developed Nations have legal framework that discourage the Asylum seekers. This leaves them with no choice but to turn to developing countries.
- Human repositioning due to conflicts is a catastrophe. There are no Global funds to provide aid.
- With the number of refugees rising every year, aid organizations are forever at a breaking point.
- Over the years, Asia has witnessed many Wars, Ethnic Violence and Terror Attacks. All this has resulted in large scale forces migration. This increases the burden on the host nations and aid agencies.
Laws in India:
- Regardless of the fact that India hosts a huge chunk of total global refugees, the country lacks both the resources and the legal framework for their sustenance.
- India relies upon Foreigners act 1946 to govern the stay, entry and exit of foreigners in India. This act was enacted by the colonial rulers in response to the need of 2nd Although amendments have been made in the years but they fail to meet the needs of the day.
- Despite hosting so many refugees, surprisingly, there is no word like Refugee in India Law. India not only has overlooked international conventions and protocols related with the issues but ignored the topic altogether while making new laws and amending the existing ones.
- The masses in the country are differentiated on two grounds: either India National or foreigners.
- Section 2A of the Indian Foreigners Act defines a foreigner as a person who is not a citizen of India and that covers all refugees. It fails to differentiate between illegal migrant and Asylum Speaker or refugee or people willingly visiting India. The act also doesn’t recognise the rights of the refugees.