Understanding the refugee crisis and lessons for India

Know about some basic terminologies used in this context

Refugee: A refugee is someone who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster.

Asylum: It is a protection granted by a state to someone who has left their home country as a political refugee.

Migrant: A person who choose to leave their home state, principally in search of a better life. It is a voluntary choice and not a involuntary act. They do not enjoy any protection under international law.

Special Status of Refugees

They enjoy certain special protections under the law:

  • Safety from being deported to the country where they face persecution
  • Protection of basic human rights without radical or religious discrimination or of national origin
  • Access to fair and efficient asylum procedures
  • Provision of administrative assistance

Know the Refugees: Statistics & Countries

According to International Organisation for Migration, 3.5 lakh migrants and refugees have tried to cross the Mediterranean sea into Europe. Almost 2500 died in Mediterranean sea during first half of 2015.

Refugees are mostly from West Asia comprising of war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Libya. West Asia was used by the political powers in Europe and US to serve their political interest in the name of supporting pro-democratic forces, ending in promoting radical groups and thus destabilizing it.

The unending civil conflict in Afghanistan and decline in socio-economic conditions in Pakistan has further fueled the crisis.

Why refugees are migrating to Europe?

First of all, Europe is economically prosperous, socially secure and presence of better immigration laws makes it a perfect destination for refugees.

But, it is not alone the brighter side of Europe, but the adverse condition in the home country, which are outside the control of common people, leading to mass migration.

Refugee vs. Migrant debate in Europe

This comes in the backdrop of UN forecast that about 3000 people per day will try to reach Europe in the next few months, which has worried European policy makers. The European powers had increased patrolling around the Mediterranean sea and security in the border areas.

  • Europe is portraying the refugees as economic migrants i.e. those who are in search of better life
  • They consider the influx of people as a threat to standard of living and social structure of Europe
  • The main reason for such portrayal is that migrants do not enjoy any protection and privileges under international law, while refugees do


Lessons for India: Need for a coherent domestic asylum policy

India is neither a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention nor it has a domestic asylum framework/National Asylum law. Interestingly, none of South Asian countries are signatories to the refugee convention.

Reason: There is a fear that if govt. does any of the above, it might lead to influx of refugees. Already, it is finding difficulty in tackling illegal migration from Bangladesh.

However, India has repeatedly stated its commitment to protect refugees. The country has also signed a number of international conventions that have a bearing on its obligation to refugees. Some of legal rights are available to refugees as well. For instance, RTE applies to all children in India, including refugees. Refugees can take the benefit of govt. health services, justice system, etc.


Germany has shown some solidarity with the refugees by granting asylum to 8 lakh people. However, France and Britain have shown signs of reluctance and resorted to tightening of asylum rules. The failure to reach a consensus on the refugees, will lead to the guilty of not being able to live up to European values.


Published with inputs from Pushpendra
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