European refugee crisis and how it puts India in the spotlight.
What is Europe’s Refugee Crisis?
Nilufer Demir was passing by the beach in Bodrum, Turkey, when she photographed the three year old Aylan Kurdi, whose body was lying on the beach as if the toddler had fallen asleep. The iconic image became a symbol for the ongoing refugee crisis all over Europe.
According to the Amnesty International report published in June 2015, titled, “The Global Refugee Crisis: A Conflict of Neglect” the international community has neglected the rights of ailing Middle-Eastern refugees.
The term “refugee” is accorded to one who is forced to move out of his/her country of nationality due to a ‘well-founded’ ‘fear of persecution’. As per United Nations, more than 500,000 people have reached the shores of Europe since January, out of which, approximately 54% are Syrians who ran away from the conflicted land out of fear of safety, followed by 13% Afghans and 7% Eritreans. Almost all of them possess a reasonable grounding to be given the status of International refugees.
Most European countries have acceded to UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention which shower on them the legal responsibility to safeguard the rights of refugees by protecting them from their persecutors. The signatories of the convention become legally and ethically bound to ensure that these refugees are not forced to return back to conditions where they might fall victim to human rights violations or risk their lives. But, in recent years, these European nations seem to have taken a step away from the refugees; the international community has turned its backs on them and has closed down its borders. The results have been catastrophic.
According to the report by Amnesty International, around 1,700 refugees and migrants lost their lives while attempting to cross the Mediterranean between January-April 2015. By the end of 2013, the estimated number of refugees across the world are between 14.2 million, out of which 10 million are still stateless, with no place to go.
European countries such as Hungary and Germany are tightening their borders to restrict the entry of refugees on their land. The European Union (EU) is on the receiving end of heavy criticism for failing to ensure the refugee policy around the continent. Approximately, 3,500 people have died while crossing the rivers in the year 2014.
How Does the International Refuge Crisis affect India?
When recently thousands of Rohingya Muslims, who escaped from Myanmar to prevent persecution, were stranded on the sea, the Australian government refused to change their policies on resettlement of refugees. The refugees were kept under inhumane conditions at sea by human traffickers. They were tortured and beaten brutally. Despite being aware of the situation, the Australian government chose not to deploy their naval resources. According to United Nations, around 400 people lost their lives.
At this time, India could have sprung into action by rescuing the refugees and sending a strong message to the entire international community which is debating on the refugee situation, but is not actively helping them.
However, India did provide homage to thousands of refugees from Burma in 2012. Currently, there are over 30,000 Rohingya refugees residing in India but in a deplorable condition.
India shares a boundary with Myanmar and both countries have worked out trade agreements between themselves which India gains economic leverage from. But India has remained silent on the issue of Rohingya Muslims refugees in several interactions with Burmese government. According to analysts, India’s attitude towards Rohingya Muslims is that of ‘grudging tolerance’ and not of ‘active engagement’.
India has also, so far, refrained from participating in the global debate on refugee issues. India has not inclined itself with the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the 1967 protocol. The country’s absolute silence on the issue has raised fresh questions on whether India’s active refugee law and policy is adequate enough for modern times.
“We are not coming to the expectations to the world community. We treat refugees as a problem. EU has created a policy for each country for refugees. But India does not have at this time the courage or vision to formulate such a policy, but we should, because the world expects us to do.” Aasha Khosa, Deputy Editor of Governance now explains.
The most important question is whether India needs to re-work its policy on international migration?
According to UNHCR, there are over 200000 refugees in India by 2015. With a question on India’s refugee policy, further inquiries are raised regarding the life being led by the refugee establishments that are already living in India.
India's Refugee Law & Policies
An analysis of India's legal framework on refugees
UN 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol
After the Second World War, when the world was dealing with large scale migration all over Europe and USA, the United Nations decided to come up with a key legal framework to define refugees, and to deal with ‘their rights and the legal obligations of states’. Earlier, when the law was being designed, it only took into consideration cases occurring before 1st January 1951. In the year 1967, the temporal and geographical restrictions were removed and the refugee law took a universal shape.
The Convention gives a legal definition to the term refugee and confers several rights and duties upon the signatories with respect to refugees including right to basic amenities, living space and working opportunities.
By April 2015, there are 148 state nations that are signatories to at least one of the two protocols on refugees. But India has kept itself aloof from the convention. India is neither a signatory to 1951 Refugee Convention nor the 1967 Refugee Protocol.
What is India’s Law and Policies on Refugees?
India has no legal framework to deal with ►refugees. It has an ad-hoc policy that decides the state of refugees on the basis of political considerations with the country of origin of refugees. This, in itself, creates a disparity in how the refugees from different communities are treated in the country.
The authorities in India are still following the 1946 Foreigner’s Act in dealing with refugees and asylum seekers. The Act is outdated and does not contain a definition for the word ‘refugee’.
Human Right Law Network published a Report of Refugee Populations in India in the year 2007 which stated: “These Acts do not distinguish refugees fleeing persecution from other foreigners; they apply to all non-citizens equally. Under the Act, it is a criminal offence to be without valid travel or residence documents. These provisions render refugees liable to deportation and detention.”
The continuation of a law that was formulated during the colonial times in India hints towards India’s fear of internal security due to the presence of foreigners on Indian soil. It appears as if India wishes to exert its complete authority on foreign parties, which is making the count.
Bhairav Acharya wrote a paper titled ‘The Law, Policy and Practice of Refugee Protection in India’ in which he wrote, “Section 2 (a) of the Act defines a ‘foreigner’ as ‘a person who is not a citizen of India’, thus covering all refugees within its ambit as well. Without a specialized governance regime for refugees, they are usually treated on par with foreigners and illegal migrants, without any special protection being accorded to them.”
India’s ad-hoc policy has led to differential treatment of refugees from different communities. When there is a large influx of refugees from a certain community, they are resettled in makeshift camps on a temporary basis under protection from Indian government, along with promises and comfort of socio-economic protection. When Tibetan Community escaped their country out of fear from persecution from Chinese authorities, India employed similar measures to accommodate them.
When there is a movement of asylum seekers to India from South Asian countries, with which India has sensitive relations, India offers them political asylum without much time being given to figure out whether they fulfill the terms of conditions of being defined as refugees. Pakistani Hindu community and Sri Lankan Tamil communities have been used by Indian authorities for political and personal gains. ►Aasha Khosa, a journalist who has written on refugee issues, expresses regret over the fact that all these refugee clusters are treated politically.
When citizens from non-neighbouring states take refuge in India, they have to apply to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to get a refugee card which they only get if their status as refugees is verified. The responsibility for providing basic rights and amenities to these refugee communities lies with UNHCR. Rohingya Muslim community from Burma is one such community in India which is dependent on UNHCR for their harmonious stay in the country.
Why is India reluctant to re-work its refugee policy?
The National Human Rights Commission started a dialogue with senior officers of Indian Ministry of External Affairs on the subject of setting up a legal system for refugees in the year 1996. The Commission concluded with the argument that it is essential for India to formulate a national law regarding this. But so far, not much has been done to set up a platform for that.
The primary reason for India’s reluctance to re-work its policy is that India believes that because of its different international policy with different nations, a uniform solution for dealing with refugees from different countries is not a practical solution. Sarbani Sen wrote in her book Paradoxes of the International Regime of Care (2008), “India has concluded that unwanted migrations, including those of refugees, are a source of bilateral and not multilateral relations, and international agreements could constrict her freedom of action.”
Another major worry for India is that because of the country’s strategic geopolitical location, India has remained concerned with its security issues. The first priority for the country has been to safeguard its national interests by keeping the borders safe. “Taking this factor into account, anti-refugee law legislators argue that the proposed law would encourage more refugees to enter India, with promises of increased legitimacy, more rights and government services, which will increase the threat of social, economic and political insecurity.” (Arjun Nair, National Refugee Law for India: Benefits and Roadblocks, 2007)
The entry of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India led to the formation of foreign armed forces in India, which in turn led to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. But Aasha Khosa believes that the absence of proper legal framework has also led to the increase in criminal activities from refugee communities in the country. “Today, there are a lot of Bangladeshi refugees in the country. They are all living illegally. Because we don’t have a policy towards them. They are coming here for economic benefits to avail facilities not provided to them in their country. But just because we do not have any policy towards them, they are all living like illegal refugees.”
China invaded Tibet in the year 1950 which led to the failure of social, cultural and economic conditions in Tibet. In 1959, The Dalai Lama escaped Tibet along with 80,000 followers to South Asian countries, mainly India, Nepal and Bhutan. After being forced into exile, The Dalai Lama set up his government at Dharamshala in India.
But the initial years were filled with hardships. While crossing the vast expanse of Himalayas to reach India, many Tibetan refugees felt sick and lost their lives, even before making it to Indian soil. The process of rehabilitating on a foreign land was not easy. The social, political, cultural and even climatic conditions were extremely different in India.
After initial hassles, the Indian government offered separate settlements to Tibetans in the country so that they keep their traditions and cultures alive. It was also a tactical move by Prime minister Nehru to keep Tibetans out from the mainstream politics of the country.
The Tibetan community in India have grown accustomed to the conditions here over last six decades. The improved education facilities, health infrastructure and job opportunities that are available for them have made many feel at home in India. But deep within them, they still desire to be back in their homeland, Tibet. The refugees still dream of a free Tibet, without any political or social subjugation, where one can walk around without any fear of persecution.
With support from the Indian government, the Tibetan refugees in India are able to maintain their livelihood by themselves. Majority of them are involved in small scale business of clothes, artifacts, ornaments, etc. A large population from Tibet is also involved in restaurant business. The Tibetans are also allowed by the Indian government to have a Tibetan government in the country which can make decisions for their community.
Even though the economic conditions of the community has improved drastically, the lack of modern education facilities for Tibetans have also led to a large scale unemployment for the growing Tibetan youth population. Also, the community faces alienation and insecurity among the Indian populace who often target them with racial slurs and prejudice.
People of Tibet
Tenzin Khandon is pursuing M.Sc. in Nursing from Jamia Millia Islamia. Her father moved to India in the year 1959, when Tibetans were forced into exile by the Chinese government.Her aunt told her the story of how they escaped from Tibet. “It was god’s miracle that they survived. They traveled vast stretches of land carrying their goods on donkey’s back. They pretended to be cattle farmers to escape the Chinese authorities. It was a tough period, but we survived.”
Tenzin misses her homeland, Tibet. Even though she is thankful to Indian government for giving her a refugee status and provisions, she wants her nationality back. “India has a very special place in my heart. But Tibet is where I want to be in future. It is my motherland.”
The cultural differences between India and Tibet has often caused problems for Tenzin. She remembers the time when her family moved in India and had to get accustomed to Indian food. “When we reach India, we did not know what Dal is. It was a new thing for us.”
She also thinks because of differences in appearances, the Tibetan community faces lot of prejudice in India society. “We look different, so we have always been seen and treated differently in India. We are called chinkis and considered as Chinese. I feel bad when this happens, but what can we do.”
Jigme, 25 years of age, is a clothes seller residing in Tibetan refugee colony at Aruna Nagar. His father served in the Indian National Army. He is proud to call himself “half-Indian”.
Jigme’s mother expired a couple of years ago. It was then he decided to set up a business to sustain himself and his family. He lives with his brother who helps him in the small business. It has only been two months since the business has started. There are no profits as of now, but Jigme has nothing to complain. “I am thankful to India for all what they have given me. I cannot ask for anything more. I cannot be greedier.”
In spite of leading a happy life in India, Jigme sees a future where he can go back to his country, Tibet. “I have lived all my life in India, and so did the generations before me. I would love to go back to my country. I have never been to Tibet. I need a Visa to visit my own country. I hope in the future Tibet wins its freedom and I can go there.”
Lobsang Dorji is the proud son of Tobidan Tsering AKA Ashok, who works alongside Kartel in the Resident Welfare Office at the Tibetan Refugee Colony. Lobsang owns the widely popular restaurant of the colony, Dolma House. He owes his success to his parents who started the business.
“My parents started the restaurant in 1994, when we moved to Delhi. It was a small shop back then. We just used to feed the coming crowds some local food along with tea and snacks. Throughout my childhood, I just saw my mom cooking in the kitchen. It was a hard time, but my parent’s hard work paid off and now we own an all Tibetan restaurant which has earned its recognition all around Delhi.”
Lobsang says that the Tibetan Community as a whole is very hardworking which is why they have built themselves up in India after they were forced into exile. He is extremely proud of his father, who has worked all his life to provide basic amenities such as electricity, water, health care etc. to the residents of the colony. “Everyone knows my father here; they salute him when he walks by.”
The future is uncertain for Lobsang, as he wishes to explore the world. But in his hearts, he feels he belongs to India now. “My dad was born in Himachal Pradesh. I associate a lot with Himachali culture when I attend Himachali weddings. I would love to visit Tibet. But my future is here in India. I am an Indian citizen now.”
Pasang Tomma, 23, is pursuing Masters in Social Work from University of Delhi. She is also a member of Tibetan youth political party, Student Federation of Tibet (SFT). She is guided by principles of equality and believes that every human deserves equal rights, irrespective of his/her ethnicity.
But for most of her life, Pasang feels she has missed out on her share of happiness. She came to India when she was 7 years old, in 1999, leaving her mother behind in Tibet. Since then, she has never met her mother. She lost her father in Nepal, when she was young, after which her mother remarried in Tibet and had another daughter, whom she has never seen.
“Of course, I miss my family. But my mother does not wish to leave her life and country behind. And I do not see a future for me in Tibet, where there is no chance for Tibetans to grow on economic and professional scale under the regime of China. So, it is better for everyone, even if it means making a few sacrifices.”
Pasang wishes for a day when her country gets freedom and she can leave India to be with her family. But she thinks that day is far away in future. “The government of Tibet is trying to make deals with Chinese government. There cannot be a middle way. There should not be any negotiations. This way it will take even longer for us to get freedom.”
In spite of all her hardships, Pasang believes that the new generation of Tibet has a brighter future in India as they have more options and rights as refugee citizens, than in their own country. In Tibet, there are no jobs for Pasang.
“It is not very difficult for us to get Indian citizenship. We just do not want to shed the Tibetan cause because of which many of us do not apply for citizenship in India. I am more free in a foreign land than I am in my own country.”
Kartel, President of the Tibetan Refugee Colony at Aruna Nagar, was born in India in 1968. He says as per the Constitution of India, he is an Indian citizen and he is happy to be. “I feel more comfortable and safer in India, than in any other place in the world.”
He talks about the time when Tibetan settlements moved to India. There was nothing for them in the foreign land. The Indian government provided them with food and shelter. Kartel is extremely thankful to Indian government for their support. “With The Dalai Lama’s efforts and Indian government’s support, the Tibetan community in India are blessed with health centers, educational facilities and economic opportunities.”
Kartel says the people of the community have everything they require to lead a comfortable life. But he also believes the ball is in their court to make something out of all they have. “We have educational facilities throughout country. Now if one studies and complete full education, he can get enough opportunities to make a name for themselves. But if you waste your education, then obviously you will struggle in life.”
In spite of the admiration for Indian society, Kartel feels a longing for his home country, Tibet. “Of course, I would want to go back home to Tibet. Humein hamara desh pyaara hai. Tibet hamara ghar hai.”
Mohammed Reyaz used to work as an interpreter for United Nations. In Burma, he was one of the very few citizens from Rohingya Muslim community who received the opportunity to get education. He explains that people from his community were not recognized as legal citizens in their own country, which was why their community was bereft of basic facilities such as education, employment, housing, etc.
The Rohingya Muslims community, located in the Northern Rakhine state of Myanmar has been on the receiving end of oppression, racial subjugation and human rights violation since last 100 years. While the minority community claim to be original inhabitants of the country, the government of Myanmar has declared them as illegal ‘Bengali Muslims’ citizens.
In 2012, the oppression against the community took violent turns, when Buddhist monks in Burma formed a majority and got the government’s approval to carry on 969 movement. According to a report by Reuters, Buddhist monks employed “moral justification for a wave of anti-Muslim bloodshed” and the results was disastrous for the community. More than 100 thousand Rohingya population was displaced. It was described as ‘genocide’ by the United Nations.
Reyaz, along with thousands of others refugees, ran from their country, when the violence reached its peak, leaving everything behind and tool shelter in India to survive.
“Many, who came before me, were illiterate, and they were periodically exploited by UNHCR, who gave them an Asylum seeker card, which has no value whatsoever. The result was that many people from my community were arrested, and beaten up brutally by police, when they failed to provide proper documentation legalizing their stay in the country.”
The international media and human rights activists have described Rohingya as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. The government of Burma has identified 135 national races in the world, but Rohingya Muslims does not feature in them. The result is that the people from the community has no right to equality, to get educated, to get proper jobs, and they are constantly exploited by the authorities.
“The people in India lack knowledge why our community is taking refuge in the country. They are not aware how we risked our lives and left everything behind just because we wanted to live with dignity,” Reyaz says.
Reyaz thinks that because of cultural differences, and different physical features, the people from the community are mistreated by the local Indian public who threaten them and exploit them.
“Because we look different, we are viewed suspiciously by police and prospect employers. The wide communication gap between us and Indian public also makes it difficult for us to get jobs,” Reyaz adds.
The community came to India under the guidance of United Nations Human Council of Refugees (UNHCR), who promised them several basic amenities such as proper housing structures, education and employment opportunities, security, sanitary living conditions, etc. The UNHCR also has a responsibility to ensure that the refugees do not face any human rights violation, nor are they influenced to indulge in criminal activities.
Abdul Rahim, one of the community leaders in Rohingya community residing in New Delhi summarizes the role played by UNHCR in aiding them: “UNHCR has given us a permit card to stay in India, with the help of which, now we are legal refugees in the country. The police, legally cannot arrest us, since we have a refugee card. But the organization has given us no aid of any kind, other than the card, and we are still striving hard to sustain a living.”
Because of lack of any proper legal framework on refugees in India, UNHCR took the responsibility of keeping a check on human rights violation faced by refugee colonies. But the body is finding it hard to bring about a platform to help different communities, because of lack of efforts of any kind from Indian government.
On the other hand, Rohingya Muslim community complain that other refugee colonies such as Sri Lankan Tamils, Tibetans etc. receive all the 42 basic rights listed for refugees; why is their community being ignored by the government?
The government of Myanmar has too remained virtually silent on the issue of Rohingya Muslims. The Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung Sann Suu Kyi, who recently won the elections in Myanmar, has surprisingly always shied away from discussing the Rohingya issue. In a recent interview with Karan Thapar, she virtually refused to address the problem by shifting focus on to other topics of concern.
Andrea Gittleman, senior legislative counsel for Physicians for Human Rights said, “The Burmese government should back reforms for Rohigya with credible efforts to dispel hate speech. At a minimum, Burmese leaders should publicly and unequivocally condemn all acts of violence against ethnic or religious minorities.”
As per recent statistics in India, there are over 30000 Rohingya refugees residing in India. In spite of regular appeal, only around 9000 Rohingya refugees have permit card from UNHCR while the remaining are still waiting to be recognized as ‘refugees’. This has caused major worry for the community as Indian government has stated that it will consider a citizen as a refugee only if they are carrying proper VISA and a valid refugee card.
The Rohingya women find it especially tough for themselves, with lack of medical facilities available for them. Johara Begum, Reyaz’s sister says, “During pregnancy, we have no where to go. Often we have to take care of ourselves on our own. In government hospitals also, because of communication gap, we face lot of problems.”
Apart from medical issues, Johara Begum also complains about the fact that there are no public toilet facilities made available by the government for them. “We have to defecate out in the open amidst the wild bushes and trees. There are lot of snakes and insects in there and often they attack us. What can we do, there is no other place to go?” she says.
Johara along with the rest of the community uses the contaminated groundwater which runs only for few hours a day. “The quality of water is so bad that the people of the community often get stomach infection and other water-borne diseases,” Johara Begum says.
The UNHCR has listed 42 basic amenities that will be provided to refugee communities which include employment opportunities. But, since most of the Rohingya population are still functioning without a refugee card, they cannot legally apply for jobs in India. This has led to widespread unemployment amongst Rohingya refugees. According to Abdul Rahim, majority of the population living in the colony are working as sweepers, laborers, factory workers, cigarette sellers and doing other menial jobs.
Reyaz is out of job since last two years. Even with a refugee card and a professional background of working as an interpreter for United Nations, he says he is struggling everyday to get a job where he could earn static money to feed himself and his family.
He defines the problems of the community with one single line, “We face so much divide, tortures and injustice, that words are not enough to describe them.”
Meera was 12 years old when her family decided to run away from Pakistan to return to the country they believe to be their homeland, India. Filled with hopes in their eyes, and yearning for a better life, they packed their bags with anything they could get their hands on, and took the evening train to India. They desired to be among people they can call their own; they thought they will be welcomed with open arms by Indians; they believed that the country will accept them and provide them a home. Four years have gone. Meera is now 16 years old. She still does not have a home she can call her own.
The Hindu community from Pakistan, which were left behind in the country after partition faced harassment and subjugation from majority Muslim population in the country. Seeta, a resident of Pakistani Hindu refugee colony in New Delhi, recalls how she was often not paid by Pakistani families for whom she used to do farming for. “The Muslims in Pakistan slaughtered cows in front of us just to mock us. They did not pay us our money and steal everything if we earn some from other places. They did not allow our Hindu children to get education.”
Seeta came to India, two months back, along with few member of her family. But, she is not the only one to do so. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, approximately 1,000 Hindu families fled to India in the year 2013 and many more are coming since last two years, in search for home.
The search for identity brought thousands of Pakistani Hindu families to India. But the Indian government has looked upon them with suspicion and it appears that the community is bearing the brunt of spoiled relations between the two nations. Pakistani Hindus are not officially recognized as “refugees” by Indian government or UNHCR. “Today, also they came and asked us to empty the place within a month. We have been asked to move from one place to another several time. We are still awaiting a decision from the Indian government on our plight,” Seeta exclaims.
Seeta also explains how the indecisiveness on the part of Indian government regarding their community has led to lack of employment opportunities for Pakistani Hindus. Without proper documentation, the refugees cannot apply for jobs and have to indulge in small scale business. “Some men are selling cellphone covers, some are selling stamps, some are selling cigarettes, some have small tea stalls,some are doing menial labor,” Seeta says.
The women from the community find it worse for them as they are habitual of working in the fields back in Pakistan. In India, as they have no employment opportunities, they spend most of their day just idling away time, plastering roofs with mud, sewing and waiting for their husbands to return back home from work. Meera says: “The women will die here plastering mud on roofs, but what can we do, we have nothing else to do.”
The basic amenities such as electricity and water supply are not given to the people from the community. A Pakistani Hindu community living nearby Gurudwara at Majnu Ka Tila, are dependent on contaminated Yamuna water for their everyday needs.
The result is that the residents often fell sick and have to be given medical treatments which they are often unable to afford.
The government has not provided them any help and whatever they have received is given to them by NGOs and Hindu political parties.
The BJP government announced in the year 2014 that they are offering Indian citizenship to over 4000 Pakistani Hindus. The promises have been broken and so far only around 300 citizens have received a citizenship. The Indian law does not confer the right to citizenship on a foreign citizen unless they have lived in a country for over 7 or more years, and that too under some specific conditions. Unless, the government re-work its refugee policy and give refugee status to the community, it will be really hard to offer a sustainable environment to the Hindu refugees.
In spite of all the problems faced by them, the community is adamant that they will not go back to Pakistan. They claim that India is their country and they should not be asked to leave. Meera retorts, “We wake up at 5 a.m. and worship Tulsi plant and yet they doubt if we are Indians. In Pakistan, they called us Indians and we felt proud we are Hindustani. Here the Indians call us ‘Pakistani’. It feels really bad.”
The refugee community has been under media scrutiny for over the years. But the residents of the colony complain that Indian media just focus on what happened to us in Pakistan to create negative sentiments about the neighboring country. The people feel they are being used for political purposes and are not getting anything in return. Meera had a message for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and she made a special request to give it to him. The video below is what Meera had to say.
Why India needs to set up a law & policy on refugees?
The primary flaw with India’s current policy on dealing with refugees is that it does not take into consideration the definition of the term ‘refugees’. There is no clear cut distinction between refugees and migrants.
The second reason for its ►failure is that it creates a huge divide between various refugee communities, some of which receive better treatment than others. The Sri Lankan Tamil refugees and Tibetan refugees are given a chance to establish their own local government within the country, while communities such as Rohingya Muslim, Afghani Muslims, etc. are being completely ignored.
Another reason for inadequacy of India’s legal framework on refugees is that in the absence of proper law to deal with illegal immigration, the refugee colonies often become victims of human rights violation on a massive scale from authorities. The colonies are often asked to move away from places to places, and beaten up and threatened if they refuse to do. There is no agency in India that is dealing or keeping tracks of such events, and the culprits go without facing any legal action or punishment.
Considering the reasons stated above, it seems that India definitely needs to re-think its strategies and define a well-established legal framework to deal with the issue. But the process for that is not as easy as it appears on papers.
Dr. Shashi Tharoor, a Congress MP, has recently introduced Asylum Bill, 2015 which aims to consolidate various policies on refugees in India to harmonise them. The bill seeks to show India’s long-standing commitment to refugee protection, according to Dr. Tharoor.
The Bill also proposes a setting up of an autonomous National Commission to assess the refugee claims. The bill has been designed in such a manner to ensure that the provisions take care of the security concerns that India has always worried about regarding giving asylum rights to refugees in the country.
If Dr. Tharoor’s bill is approved as a law, it will give the country a fixed structured law to protect the rights of refugees. It can bring about a future in the country where all the different refugee communities in the country get equal opportunities and will encourage them to seek their rights and recognition as refugees instead of living hidden from the outside world, in makeshift camps, vulnerable to exploitation.
For India to take a stand on refugees, Asylum Bill 2015 might just be the first push that the government requires.
A Project By : Karan Prashant Saxena