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Anjali Singh asked: India has not ratified the UN Refugees Convention and doesn't have a national policy either. What kind of challenges India faces in view of such a policy void?

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  • Rajeesh Kumar replies: It is true that India is neither a party to the United Nations Refugee Convention and nor have a national refugee protection framework. However, lack of a specific legal framework does not mean that the country was in a dilemma whenever a refugee crisis arose. India dealt with multiple refugee crises and hosted refugees from several countries including Tibet, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. At present, India is host to around 300,000 refugees from more than 25 countries. Importantly, India’s refugee policy has been hailed by the international community at various times. For instance, in 2013, Antonio Guterres, the then United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had said that India's refugee policy is a model for other countries to emulate. In short, even in the absence of a specific national policy, India always respected the spirit and contents of international treaties and provisions, including non-refoulement.

    However, this ad-hoc policy, treating refugees case by case has its disadvantages as well. The lack of specific policy restrains proper documentation of refugees in the country. The recent Rohingya crisis is a case in point. The absence of data on Rohingya immigration created a lot of concern in India including from the point of view of national security. The issue also impacted India's image as a liberal democracy at the global level.

    Posted on June 22, 2018