“Current Affairs Editorial – India and Refugee Crises”


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    Context:-

    The Supreme Court agreed to hear an urgent plea made by two Rohingya Muslim immigrants.
    The plea of the migrants is against Indian government’s proposed move to deport their 40,000-strong refugee community back to their native Myanmar.
    The proposed deportation is contrary to the constitutional protections under
    •Article 14 (equality),
    •Article 21 (right to life)
    •Article 51(c) (respect for international law and treaty obligations) of the Constitution.
    The Prevailing International Consensus:-

    Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 upholds the right of refugees.
    Based on the above provision, the United Nations built the Convention Relating To The Status Of Refugees in 1951 which explicitly recognizes the right of persons to seek asylum.
    As per the treaty, a refugee can not only enjoy the rights and benefits of a state but also the ones provided for in the Convention too.
    The treaty defines certain terms, sets out the rights and responsibilities of individuals and the nations respectively.

    Who is who:-
    Definition of a Refugee:-

    Refugees are people fleeing armed conflicts or persecution.
    Refugees cross national borders to seek safety in nearby countries.
    They can later get recognized as refugees with access to assistance from states and aid organizations.
    Definition of a Migrant:-

    Migrants choose to move not because of a direct threat or persecution but mainly to improve their lives:
    •Finding work.
    •Seeking better education.
    •Reuniting with family.
    Definition of an Asylum Seeker:-

    An asylum seeker is someone who claims to be a refugee but whose claim hasn’t been evaluated.
    Someone is an asylum seeker for so long as their application is pending.
    So not every asylum seeker will be recognized as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker.
    Evolving Concepts:-

    A refugee, migrant or an asylum seeker is not a monolithic concept.
    A refugee cannot safely return home but a migrant can return home if they wish.
    One person’s motives may change in nature and in importance during their journey.
    This will not always reflect the complex realities behind their exodus.
    Countries around the world handle migrants under their own immigration laws and processes.
    But the principle of Non Refoulment forbids a country receiving asylum seekers from returning them to a country in which they would be in likely danger of persecution.
    Even the liberal Schengen Zone concept was put to the test during the exodus of migrants from Libya, Syria, Yemen and other middle eastern countries in 2015.
    This need for international check on state sovereignty arose due to the plight of refugees fleeing the world wars back in the 20th century.
    New categories of people fleeing their homes due to climate change and pollution add to the complexity in this 21st century world.
    Indian Stand on Humanitarian Crises:-

    India has not signed the United Nation’s 1951 Refugee Convention.
    Because the treaty, India felt, was Eurocentric.
    Moreover, the convention is structurally biased against ‘mass influxes’ where refugees cannot prove their persecution.
    Despite not signing, India has a distinguished record of protecting refugees.
    During partition of the country in 1947, India witnessed the largest mass migration in human history.
    The moral act of providing asylum to the Dalai Lama in the late 1950s came with significant political cost.
    In 1971ten million refugees arrived from East Pakistan, mostly Hindus and minorities.
    They bore the scar of genocide.
    India fought for them and defeated Pakistan resulting in the birth of Bangladesh.
    The influx of Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees in 1971 and in waves during the 1980s further saw India embark on refugee protection.
    By now refugee protection was part of the Indian National consciousness.
    The need for an Asylum Law in India:-

    In a country conceived in Pluralism, it is easier for refugees to get acceptance.
    But India does not have a separate policy or even a domestic law for asylum seekers.
    The prevailing refugee protection frameworks are at best ad hoc in India.
    It is time for India to forge a new Asylum Protection law considering the evolving refugee situation across the world and in its immediate neighborhood.
    India’s desire to be one among the comity of nations’ leading this world demands that India adopt a comprehensive law on Refugee protection.
    This will only enhance India’s stature amongst the world nations.
    The model Asylum law for India:-

    A modern asylum regime should be forged taking into consideration the following factors:
    It should recognize the complexity of migration, the mixed flow, bi directional flows, open borders and other hidden factors involved in the movement of people.
    It should distinguish, differentiate and classify each person clearly and provide respective protection.
    It should effectively address the mass influx situation.
    It should proactively govern the refugee situation in the country.
    The law should be progressive and should try to provide a solution for the crisis involved.
    Indian diplomacy should be proactive and assume the role of a mediator to solve any crisis arising in South Asia and across the world.
    The Rohingya Muslims exodus issue is an opportune moment for India to get involved and solve it.

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