NHRC recommends revision of draft laws on refugee rights

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NHRC recommends revision of draft laws on refugee rights

  • A discussion on “protection of the basic human rights of refugees and asylum seekers in India” was held by NHRC
  • It was suggested during discussion that Model laws on asylum and refugees that were drafted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) decades ago but not implemented by the government could be revised by an expert committee

Legal framework for refugees in India

  • India does not have any national law on refugees.
  • Refugees and asylum seekers are entitled to the rights in Articles 14, 20 and 21 of the Constitution
  • Article 51 of the Indian constitution: This provision states that the state shall endeavour to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations in the dealings of organised people with one another.
  • In 2011, the Union government circulated a Standard Operating Procedure to deal with foreign nationals who claim to be refugees.
  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 aims to provide citizenship to those who are sheltered in India for religious persecution or fear of persecution in their home countries.
  • But the Act only covers the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan and not all migrants
  • India is not a signatory of the United Nations Refugee Convention, 1951 and 1967 protocol

Challenges related with refugees

  • Social: Refugees might create an identity crisis with the indigenous people.
  • Economic: Increased financial responsibility of the state and competition for local people for employment
  • Political: illegal migrants can procure illegal national identity cards such as voter id and vote in elections and influence the outcome

Suggestions during discussion

  • update the two old NHRC documents regarding the domestic asylum laws and model law for refugees.
  • constitute a panel/committee of scholars and domain experts to update these draft laws

Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951

  • It is the foundation of international refugee law.
  • It defines the term “refugee”, establishes the principle that refugees should not be forcibly returned to a territory where their lives or freedom would be threatened
  • It sets out the duties of refugees and States’ responsibilities toward them.
  • The definition of a refugee contained in the 1951 Convention refers to persons who became refugees as a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951

1967 Protocol

  • It is independent of, though integrally related to, the 1951 Convention.
  • It removes the temporal and geographic limits found in the Convention.
  • By acceding to the Protocol, States agree to apply the core content of the 1951 Convention (Articles 2–34) to all persons covered by the Protocol’s refugee definition, without limitations of time or place.

Way forward

  • India should constitute proper laws regarding refugees and asylum seekers so that their rights can be ensured and also challenges associated with refugees influx can be minimised