INDIA AND PRESSING NEED FOR A REFUGEE LAW

INTRODUCTION

Refugees are those individuals either who left their country on their own in search of a better life or those who were persecuted in their country and as result, they are forced to leave their country and as result, they are forced to leave their country. Due to human right violation, military dictatorship, drought, and other natural calamities, people were also forced to leave their country. With the continuing rising number of refugees, it is need of the hour for the government to formulate law regarding this to ensure rights and their needs should also be taken care of. As in absence of this, they are in great dilemma of treating as an illegal immigrant, and in absence of refugee law, the government is not in the situation to provide means for their settlement and development. Also, they left their country with no resources they are in dire need of support from the government of that country where they take shelter.

In the Indian context, there is no definition of refugees and to govern them, there are different acts like The Foreigners Act of 1946, Passport Act of 1967, Extradition Act of 1962, and Citizenship Act of 1955, and the Illegal Migrant (Determination by Tribunals) Act of 1983.[1]In absence of refugee law, refugees became vulnerable most of them became victims of human trafficking. Also, In the constitution of India extends the right to refugees but even though, they need prescribed rights for the betterment. It will be helpful to both government and refugees.

INCREASING REFUGEE CRISIS

Nowadays, the refugee crisis is increasing day by day, especially in neighbouring countries as people try to take shelter in the neighbouring country. In India, a large no. of refugees came from Myanmar, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Nepal. In Afghanistan, the recent power taken by the Taliban accelerated the refugees’ crisis. In Myanmar, the persecution of Rohingya Muslims on the ethnic ground forced them to leave their country, where their ancestor resides for a long time. Due to Covid-19, this situation became worse. As they have a lack of means for survival and with the pandemic, the economy was closed and its effects continue last in present.

As India is not a signatory[2] of the refugee convention 1956 or its 1967 Protocol. Due to this India is not bound to provide means for refugee settlement and development. Due to the increasing number of refugee local population also face the problem as they have to survive with limited resources but with increased population. The recent citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) was passed by[3] parliament in which there is provision to provide citizenship only to Hindu, Christian, Jain, Sikh, and Buddhist immigrants persecuted in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. This makes refugees of other countries and different religions come within the purview of citizenship. As they have to wait for a longer time for citizenship in comparison to the above-mentioned list of people.

RIGHTS AVAILABLE TO REFUGEE

India is not a signatory of any refugee law and also it does not have a law of its own to deal with the refugee crisis. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Convention against Torture (CAT), The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)[4] , and the Convention on the Rights of the child are invoked to assist refugees. Even in Indian Constitution, some rights are given to refugees [5] like Art. 14, 20, 21, 21A, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, and 28. These articles safeguard the refugee from any adversity and for its enforcement they have to go to a court of law. In many cases, these rights are also infringed by refugees like in Dongh Lian Kham & Anr. v. Union of India & Anr., the Supreme Court[6] stated that under Art. 21 there is a non-refoulment principle available to every refugee irrespective of their nationality.

REASON FOR REFUGEE LAW

In India, no classification or definition is drawn by the government for refugees. Also, there is no provision to differentiate between illegal immigrants, foreigners, and refugees. This poses a difficult problem for a refugee as many times they are considered an illegal immigrant and forced to leave the country as they do not have visas and passports. To solve all these problems, there is a need for refugee law in all the rights and benefits that should be mentioned. Refugees came from different countries and belong to different religions. The attitude of the government is also different for a refugee from a different country. Like in CAA, 2019 there is less time for citizenship to a particular group of people from the group of the particular country. A refugee from every country faces the same and equal problem in the host country that’s why the government should formulate a law for all without being prejudiced.

Another reason for refugee law is for security purposes, as the growing no. of refugees came with new difficulty to the government. Some of them are refugees but some of them may be bad elements and enter into a country with the motive to disturb the host country. Refugee law can play an important role to solve all these problems and will prove beneficial for the government to draw uniform policy. With refugee, law distinction will be possible between refugees and illegal immigrants. The government can decide based on that to stop the influx of illegal immigrants.

CONCLUSION

From earlier times, Indian believes in Athithi Devo Bhava and treat them very well. The recent rising no. of refugees poses a serious problem to both government and its population as well as to also refugees. In absence of any law regarding refugees, they face many problems like in settlement, for seeking employment. Also in lack of definition many times refugees are treated as illegal immigrants and subjected to forceful deportation. The refugee law indeed will be very helpful both to the government and refugees. At present refugees are treated under various Laws and do not have any specific law to govern the refugee crisis. The uniform law will be very helpful as the government will have clear rules and regulations and easily can take steps for their settlement and development.

Author(s) Name: Suruchi Kumari (Chanakya National Law University, Patna)

References:

[1] Radhika Nair, Refugee Protection in India calls for the adoption of a specific law, LIVEMINT (Oct. 27, 2021, 10:36 PM) https://www.livemint.com.

[2] Saurabh Bhattacharjee, India needs a refugee law, ECONOMIC & POLITICAL WEEKLY (Feb. 25, 2022,5: 34 PM), https://www.epw.in.

[3] DRISHTI IAS, https://www.drishtiias.com. (last visited April 10, 2021).

[4] Supra Note 1.

[5] GKTODAY, https://www.gktoday.in (last visited Feb. 27, 2016).

[6] Lokesh Mewara, Deportation of Rohingyas violates International Law, Legal precedents in India, THE WIRE, (Feb. 26. 2022, 9:30 pm), https://thewire.in.

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