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Refugee Crisis in India

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  • Last Updated : 30 Sep, 2022
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A refugee is a person who is compelled to leave their country due to violence, conflict, or persecution. A refugee typically fears being persecuted because of their ethnicity, religion, nationality, political views, or participation in a particular social group. It is more likely that they are unable to or are afraid to return to their homes. The 1947 partition of India marked the beginning of the refugee influx. The country had taken in almost 450,00 refugees by the beginning of 2010 from both inside and outside the region. 

Refugee Crisis in India:

Refugees have lived in India for ages. The most important fact that should be noted is that, except for the transboundary movement of people during the country’s partition in 1947, there has never been a single instance of a refugee coming from Indian soil. On the other side, it has consistently been a receiving nation, expanding its multi-cultural and multi-ethnic fabric in the process. India has welcomed refugees from all religions and sects as part of its secular principles. It is important to note that since gaining its independence, India has taken in refugees from far-off nations as well as some of its neighbors, including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda. In several instances, refugees from one or more neighboring nations have fled into India on the South Asian subcontinent. Given the sensitivity of local politics on the subcontinent, it is difficult to completely separate the subject of refugees entering India from the general security concerns that are pertinent there. Even though India has hosted a sizable and diverse population of refugees in the past, India has dealt with “refugee” concerns on a bilateral basis. Without a doubt, refugees are “foreigners.” The current status in India is that they are dealt with under the existing Indian laws, both general and specific, which are otherwise applicable to all foreigners, even though there may be a case to distinguish them from the rest of the “foreigners”. Cases for refugee “status” are evaluated individually for the same reason. The issue of refugee protection in India requires immediate clinical attention, and the necessary institutional and legal mechanisms must be put in place. Since the two groups frequently overlap, illegal immigrants and refugees are the subject of much debate in India. Because both types of persons are treated equally under Indian law and are protected by the Foreigners Act of 1946, our attitudes regarding illegal immigrants and refugees are unclear. The statute provides a straightforward definition of a foreigner: “a person who is not a citizen of India.
Although there are important distinctions between refugees and illegal immigrants, India lacks the legal tools necessary to handle each group independently. Additionally, India is not a signatory to the fundamental legal texts governing refugee protection, the 1951 Refugee Convention, and its 1967 Protocol.

Concept of Refugees in India:

The 1951 convention’s concept of refugees only applies to cases in which an individual’s civil and political rights have been violated, not their economic rights. If this argument were made in the context of South Asia, it might also be troublesome for India. India must also claim that the North is breaking the terms of the agreement in both form and spirit and condition India’s accession to the Western States lifting the “no entry” policy.  The no-entry regime is made up of a variety of legal and administrative measures, such as visa restrictions, carrier sanctions, interdictions, the third safe-country rule, restrictive definitions of “refugee,” the withdrawal of social welfare benefits from asylum seekers, and widespread detention practices. In other words, India must start a worldwide dialogue on the subject by drawing on its exemplary, though not faultless, history of refugee protection.

Status of the Refugees in India:

  • 1947: Pakistani refugees fleeing the partition, the size of the issue was unprecedented for India’s newly elected government. To rehabilitate the refugees, city had to be rebuilt.
  • 1959: Refugees from Tibet, When the Dalai Lama and his 100,000 followers were being persecuted by Chinese authorities, India provided them shelter.
  • 1960: Chakma and Hajong, the Indian government relocated them to Arunachal Pradesh between 1964 and 1969.
  • 1965 and 1971: Other Bangladeshis fled their country, and the majority of East Bengali refugees settled in Kolkata, as well as other West Bengali cities, towns, and rural areas.
  • 1980: Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka, All facets of Sri Lankan society are being impacted by the country’s political and economic unrest, but the Tamil community is being hammered particularly severely. The most discriminated against ethnic group in Sri Lanka is the Tamils, they later settled in Tamil Nadu. 
  • 2022: Most recently Myanmar hosted Rohingya refugees, When violence broke out in Rakhine State, Myanmar, on August 25, thousands of Rohingya were forced to leave their homes. More than 1 million Rohingya without a state have remained in makeshift shelters five years later.

Current Legal Framework of India for Handling Refugees:

  • The Indian Constitution’s Article 51: According to this clause, the state must make every effort to promote adherence to treaty obligations and international law in interactions between organised groups of people.
  • The 1946 Foreigners Act: The Central government is given the authority to find, arrest, and deport unauthorized foreign nationals under Section 3.
  • Indian Passport (Entry) Act of 1920: According to Section 5, the Indian Constitution’s Article 258(1) allows for the forceful removal of an illegitimate foreigner.
  • The 1939 Registration of Foreigners Act: All foreign nationals (with the exception of Indian residents living abroad) entering India on a long-term visa (greater than 180 days) are expected to register with a Registration Officer within 14 days of their arrival in India.
  • 1955 Citizenship Act: It included clauses for renunciation, termination, and citizenship deprivation.
  • 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA): It exclusively intends to provide citizenship to immigrants who have suffered persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan, or Afghanistan who are Hindu, Christian, Jain, Parsi, Sikh, or Buddhist.

Challenges Faced by Refugees in India:

1. Inadequate legal and medical support: When detained, migrants who cross borders frequently lack access to legal and medical assistance. Some of them lack the resources necessary to afford legal representation in order to prevent further arrest.

2. Refugee women and children at risk: Due to rising housing expenses, it appears that women and children are more likely to experience gender-based violence, in part because they share a residence with strangers. Child labor among refugees and asylum seekers is a big worry for their protection and is not uncommon.

3. Risk of being detained: As soon as a refugee crosses an international border into India without authorization, they may be detained. Due to any contradictory claims they may have made to the authorities, they may be suspected of being a spy or infiltrator. If the refugee lacks the typical “travel documents,” this will only get worse. In these situations, it would be completely legitimate for the security agency to file a case in accordance with the IPC, Foreigners’ Act, etc., and even to detain the refugee before delivering him or her to a court with local jurisdiction.

4. Inability to participate in government programs: Despite the fact that they are not legally permitted to work, they are able to do so in the unregulated labor market. Additionally, they lack access to many social security programs that are offered to Indian nationals, making them more exposed to natural disasters and economic shocks.


Since India is emerging as a significant world force, everyone is watching to see how it handles the many problems it faces. Given that the borders are porous and the neighboring countries frequently face political challenges, India needs to fortify its border regions. India can enhance border security by looking into solutions for border fencing and smart barriers, among other things. Following India’s independence, there has been a problem with illegal immigration. India needs to formulate a definite refugee strategy at once. The state governments won’t be able to adopt a position that differs from the federal government as a result of this. Nonetheless, stop a big influx of unauthorized immigrants from entering India. India will address this issue quickly because it is a developing country and always believes in building policies for its inhabitants.

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