[20th June 2024] The Hindu Op-ed: Blueprints beyond borders, for solace and shelter

PYQ Relevance: 

Q Refugees should not be turned back to the country where they would face persecution or human rights violation”. Examine the statement with reference to the ethical dimension being violated by the nation claiming to be democratic with an open society. (UPSC IAS/2021)

How far are India’s internal security challenges linked with border management, particularly in view of the long porous borders with most countries of South Asia and Myanmar? (UPSC IAS/2013)

Mentors comment: India, commemorating World Refugee Day (June 20), boasts a millennia-old legacy of asylum, from ancient Jews and fleeing Zoroastrians to modern refugees like East Bengalis, Tibetans, Sri Lankan Tamils, Nepalis, Afghans, and Rohingyas. Having faced a significant refugee crisis at independence, India empathetically supports refugees, acknowledging their plight and affirming its commitment to aiding their resettlement and recovery.

Let’s learn!

Why in the News?

The global refugee crisis continues to escalate, with over 43.4 million refugees worldwide driven by ongoing conflicts.

About World Refugee Day
• After the UN (United Nations) defined refugee rights in 1951, Africa established a day to honour them in 1970.
• Later, acknowledging the worldwide refugee crisis, the UN General Assembly took a global approach in 2000, designating June 20th as World Refugee Day.
• The Refugee Convention, 1951 defines who is a refugee, their rights, and the legal obligations of states towards them.
• This day has become a powerful tool to raise awareness, build support, and celebrate the contributions of refugees everywhere.

India’s Historical Role in Refugee Protection

  • Long-standing Asylum Tradition: India has a long history of providing asylum, from ancient times with Jewish and Zoroastrian refugees to more recent instances involving East Bengalis, Tibetans, Sri Lankan Tamils, Nepalis, Afghans, and Rohingyas.
  • Partition Legacy: The partition of India in 1947, which caused one of the largest refugee crises in history, has ingrained a deep awareness of the plight of refugees in the national consciousness.

Issues related to Rohingya Sufferings

  • Trauma and Mental Health: Rohingya refugees in Delhi experience severe trauma, including anxiety, dissociative episodes, and depression, often due to past experiences in Myanmar and ongoing re-traumatization from living conditions and violence in India.
  • Living Conditions: Rohingya refugees live in shanty-like huts prone to accidental and intentionally set fires, leading to constant fear and re-traumatization.
  • Discrimination and Legal Status: Officially labelled as “illegal immigrants,” Rohingya refugees face severe discrimination in India. They are denied full access to education, healthcare, legal services, and formal employment opportunities.
  • Detention and Deportation: Fear of arbitrary detention and deportation is widespread, despite many having UNHCR refugee cards. At least 500 Rohingya, including women and children, are detained in centres across India without criminal charges, some for decades.
  • Civil Society and Funding: Civil society organizations working with Rohingya refugees face funding challenges due to cancelled FCRA licenses. Many support programs have shut down or reduced operations, leaving few UNHCR-supported organizations to cautiously continue their work.

About unsolved Tibetan issue

The Tibetan issue in India is a complex and contentious topic with historical, cultural, and political implications. 

Ongoing Challenges

  • Tibetan Independence Movement: The Tibetan independence movement continues to push for greater autonomy and recognition of Tibet as a sovereign nation.
  • Chinese Censorship and Suppression: The Chinese government maintains strict control over information and suppresses any dissent or opposition to its rule in Tibet.

 Current Situation of Tibetans

  • Declining Refugee Numbers: Over the last seven years, the Tibetan refugee community in India has dropped by 44 percent, from around 150,000 in 2011 to 85,000, according to Indian government data.
  • Economic Uncertainty: Many Tibetans face economic uncertainty due to limited job opportunities and restrictions on property ownership and bank credit.
  • Lack of Recognition: Tibetans are not officially recognized as refugees in India, instead being designated as “foreigners” under Indian law.
  • No National Refugee Law: India has no national refugee law, and its policies are not in accordance with international standards.
Indian Migrants’ Rights in GCC countries:
Vulnerabilities of Migrant Workers: Migrant workers in GCC countries face systemic vulnerabilities due to the Kafala system, tying their legal status to employers who control their accommodation, wages, and freedom of movement. Lack of independent legal status and dependency on employers make them susceptible to exploitation, poor living conditions, and arbitrary deportations.
Living Conditions and Safety: Many migrants live in crowded and substandard accommodations, which exacerbate risks during emergencies such as fires, as seen in the Mangaf tragedy. Safety standards in workplaces and living spaces often fall short, posing significant risks to migrants’ health and well-being.
Legal Protections and Access to Justice: Legal protections for migrant workers vary, with some categories like domestic workers often excluded from labor laws and protections. Limited access to justice and the ability to organise or unionise further restrict their ability to advocate for improved rights and conditions.

Need for Legislation

  • Lack of Formal Framework: Despite its history, India has not signed the UN Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol and lacks a domestic asylum framework.
  • Private Member’s Bill: In February 2022, a Private Member’s Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha to establish a comprehensive Refugee and Asylum law, addressing these gaps. This Bill aimed to formalize the recognition and rights of asylum seekers and refugees, in line with international principles such as non-refoulement.

Current Legislative Landscape

  • General Foreigner-related Laws: Without a dedicated refugee law, refugees in India are subject to various general foreigner-related laws, leading to inconsistent and ad hoc management.
  • Need for Comprehensive Law: A comprehensive National Asylum Law is needed to provide clear guidelines for asylum seekers, ensure access to essential services, and enable refugees to rebuild their lives.

Judicial Support and International Responsibility

  • Supreme Court Affirmation: The Supreme Court of India has affirmed the rights of all individuals in India, including refugees, under Articles 14, 20, and 21 of the Constitution.
  • Landmark Cases: Landmark cases, such as the “National Human Rights Commission vs. the State Of Arunachal Pradesh & Anr” have highlighted the need for proper asylum procedures and protection against forcible eviction.
  • Framework for Refugee Rights: A formal refugee rights framework would reduce reliance on inconsistent judicial rulings and arbitrary decisions by government officials.

Way Forward

  • International Cooperation: Addressing the global refugee crisis requires international cooperation, and India must play its part domestically and on the world stage.
  • Enacting a National Asylum Law: Enacting a National Asylum Law would reinforce India’s commitment to humanitarian values and democratic principles, positioning the country as a leader in refugee protection.
  • Alignment with Vision of Vishwaguru: Upholding these values aligns with India’s vision of being a Vishwaguru, contributing to global humanitarian efforts and embodying the ideals articulated by leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch