- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
- GS-2: Rights and Freedom
Context: According to the UN, over 82.4 million people were forced to leave their homes in 2020 and more than 20 million of them are refugees. Over 200,000 of these refugees are currently in India.
India and Refugees
- Through its history, India has hosted people fleeing war, conflict and persecution many times — Zoroastrians from Iran, Bengalis during 1971 Bangladesh liberation, Sri Lankans in the 1980s or Afghans during varied waves of displacement.
- Welcoming refugees lies at the core of India’s secular, spiritual and cultural values.
- India has taken part in 49 peacekeeping missions, in which more than 195,000 troops and a significant number of police personnel assisted the UN and international NGOs in conflict-ridden lands.
- Whatever be the considerations of refugees seeking a sanctuary — economic, demographic, security, or political — India has been adept in managing complications that result from such situations.
- Lacks Refugee Framework: Despite being a welcoming country, India does not have a national refugee framework.
- Ad-Hoc Measures: Interventions on refugee assistance in India have largely depended on interim policies and administrative decisions. As a result, some groups of refugees have benefitted from holistic support and solutions, others have fallen behind.
- Missing on Soft Power: India has not codified our interventions in asylum management, so that they can be showcased globally.
- Not a bureaucratic Exercise: Treatment of refugees is an important national security consideration that cannot be relegated to a bureaucratic exercise as it is currently.
Need for Refugee Law
- A sustainable refugee policy is a necessary step to intelligently manage population movements and ensure transparency and predictability in our administrative actions.
- A national refugee management law will be in keeping with India’s leadership role in the region and amongst developing nations.
- The legislation will clarify the roles of different agencies — governmental, judicial, UN — involved in refugee protection and lay down the procedures of coordination amongst them.
- It would also help avoid friction between the host country and the country of origin.
- Other states would recognise the move to grant asylum as a peaceful, humanitarian and legal act, and not an arbitrary political gesture.
- It will also provide a platform for dialogue on sharing responsibility and aid the search for durable solutions to the root causes of a refugee problem.
- Some countries provide initial help to refugees, after which they are expected to fend for themselves. A few countries have treated refugees like charity cases. Finding the right balance between the two is what a national refugee law can help achieve.
- Progressive states and economic powerhouses like India, with traditional experience and values, can serve as catalysts for global humanitarian action and asylum management.
- The current global refugee and economic crises present an opportunity for India to better calibrate its asylum management by enacting a national refugee law.
Connecting the dots: