General Studies Paper 2 (International Relations)
Question:- 50. Describe India’s policy with regards to refugees so far. Do you think the policy needs to undergo a change to prepare for the future? Discuss. Answer in 250 words
Aug 27, 2022



Historically, India has witnessed an inflow of refugees from many neighboring countries. Taking care of refugees is the core component of the human rights paradigm. India has a moral tradition for assimilating foreign people and culture. Indian history is replete with instances of accepting refugees from the neighbourhood in South Asia, highlighting a stellar record on the issue of refugee protection.

Even without formal commitments, India has a long tradition of addressing concerns in a humane manner about those whose lives are endangered. Tibetan Buddhists and Sri Lankan Tamils are some examples.


LINKAGE POINT 1: The policy of India with regards to refugees is discussed below:



  1. 1.India does not have a clear-cut domestic policy or law for refugees.
  2. 2.India is not a signatory to UN conventions on refugees – the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol as it is surrounded by neighbours where people have been trying to leave their country to come to India. The porousity of borders is a huge obstacle.
  3. 3.All foreigners, legal or illegal, migrants or refugees, fall under
  • -The Passports Act of 1967 and
  • -The Foreigners Act of 1946.

The Acts define a non-Indian national as a “foreigner” independent of his/her specific legal status.

  1. 4.While there are no specific laws for the protection of refugees, the Constitution of India grants the Right to Equality (Article 14), the Right to Life and Liberty (Article 21), to its non-citizens.
  2. 5.Also, India is obliged to adhere to the customary international law’s principle of ‘re-foulement’ which says that there can be no forceful repatriation. The Article 3 of the Torture Convention (India is a signatory) states, “No state party shall expel, return (refouler) or extradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”


 LINKAGE POINT 2: There is a need for some changes in the above mainly due to the following reasons:


  1. 1.The refugee issue poses a problem for the state as it puts an economic burden, may trigger demographic changes in the long term, and poses security risks as well. Further, in any case, refugee flows to India are unlikely to end any time soon given the geopolitical, economic, ethnic, and religious contexts of the region.

Hence, there is an urgent need today to clinically address the issue of refugee protection in India and put in place appropriate legal and institutional measures.

  1. 2.The lack of a defined refugee policy with a national refugee protection framework leads to different standards of protection and assistance among refugee groups. Tibetans and Sri Lankan refugees are protected and assisted by the Government while UNHCR is directly involved with groups arriving from other countries (notably Afghanistan and Myanmar).Holders of documentation provided by UNHCR are able to obtain temporary residence permits from the authorities and are able to find low-paid employment in the informal job market.
  1. 3.Women and children appear to be at increased risk of gender-based violence, partly as a result of sharing living space with strangers, due to rising accommodation costs. Also, the refugees being vulnerable are an easy target for terrorist groups.



Despite having no clear-cut laws or being a signatory to UN conventions, India has handled refugee crises since it became an independent nation. India is the largest refugee receiving country in South Asia. India as a sovereign nation can decide if it wants to be a party to the UN convention on refugees or not but it is time that the government came up with a policy on refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants.





Answer Credits: