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Synopsis: India has always welcomed refugees during its history. However, it has still not codified any refugee law. Law is important to bring transparency and economic benefits.
India’s efforts towards welfare of refugees
Welcoming refugees lies at the core of India’s secular, spiritual and cultural values.
India has hosted people fleeing war, conflict, and persecution many times, in the past. It includes Zoroastrians from Iran, Sri Lankans in the 1980s, or Afghans during varied waves of displacement, including the current one.
Furthermore, India has taken part in 49 peacekeeping missions. It involves more than 195,000 troops from India and a significant number of police personnel assisting the UN and international NGOs in conflict-ridden lands.
However, still India does not have a national refugee framework. It is in contrast to the steps taken above.
What is the need for a refugee policy?
Ensure transparency: At present, refugee assistance in India is largely dependent upon interim policies and administrative decisions. A sustainable refugee policy will ensure transparency and predictability in our administrative actions.
Rule of law: Treatment of refugees must receive the same attention that other human rights protection issues receive — this is consistent with the constitutional emphasis on the rule of law.
National security: It is also very important to ensure national security and bureaucratic decisions cannot be relied upon to ensure it.
Ensure coordination between agencies: It will ensure role clarification of different concerned governmental, judicial, and UN agencies and will also lay down the procedures of coordination amongst them.
International relations: In the presence of law, other nations(like China) would recognise the move to grant asylum as a peaceful, humanitarian, and legal act, and not an arbitrary political gesture.
Economic benefits: Lastly, accepting refugees has been economically beneficial for India to an extent. Many refugees are thriving businesspersons today. Welcoming refugees generally imply an initial investment of public funds. Once refugees start working, this investment may harvest dividends.
However, their capability to contribute to the economy is also dependent on policies, laws and institutions of the host country.
Model State: India, with its traditional experience in managing refugee crisis, can serve as catalysts for global humanitarian action and asylum management.
What are the suggestions?
Firstly, the law should differentiate between various categories of refugees and migrants and assign each a relevant form of protection. It should protect the most vulnerable the most.
Secondly, India should utilize the present global refugee and economic crises as an opportunity to frame legislation immediately.
Source: This post is based on the article “Why India needs a refugee law” published in Indian express on 6th October 2021.