Refugees in India

india flagAs one of the most important economic leaders in South Asia, India has an important role in its treatment of refugees since it sets the example for other countries in the region.

Firstly, India shelters one of the largest amount of refugees in the world, which currently adds up to 315,493. However, the Land of Gandhi does not have any clear policy concerning refugees, which allows for different treatments delivered to the various groups of immigrants amongst themselves. For instance, attention brought to the condition of Tibetan refugees who arrived prior to 1980 was very different from the one brought to Tibetan refugees who arrived afterwards.

Refugees who had migrated during the 1947 India - Pakistan partition riots from Pakistan's Punjab province to India's Jammu and Kashmir stage a protest in Jammu, India, Monday, March 9, 2009. West Pakistan refugees, as they are known as have been residents for the past 60 years and are Indian citizens, but cannot buy property, get employment in the state or vote in the state assembly elections as they do not have permanent resident status. The banner in Hindi reads " Enslaved people of a free nation."(AP Photo/Channi Anand)
” Enslaved people of a free nation.”(AP Photo/Channi Anand)

Secondarily, the Indian government has neither signed the Refugee Convention nor its Protocol; as a result, Indian law does not offer any special language or provision for refugees, despite their large amount seeking the country’s protection. Furthermore, under Indian law, the term “foreigner” is the only reference to aliens of any kind which places refugees, immigrants, and tourists in the same broad basket.

Finally, India’s ability to drive back refugees seeking asylum does not comply with other countries’ policies. The policy of non-refoulement, a principle of international law for both the customary and trucial law of nations, forbids a country to expel refugees, thereby forcing them to return to the country where their lives or liberties may still be threatened.