Does India need a proper asylum law or not?

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With Baloch leader Bugti trying to seek asylum in India, Europe refugee crises and three of our MPs introducing bills related to proper asylum laws in India. The question arises does India actually need an asylum or refugee law? Asylum is the protection granted by a state to someone who has left their home country as a political refugee and asylum law would deal with people who seek asylum from an another country due to certain circumstances.

Asylum law in India

To begin India does not have any proper asylum law dealing with asylum seekers or refugees, in fact, none of the laws in India mentions the word refugee. Presently cases like this are only dealt with

  • The Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939
  • The Foreigners Act, 1946
  • The Foreigners Order, 1948

Article 2 of the Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939 defines the foreigner “A person who is not a citizen of India”.

India has signed neither the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention nor its 1967 Protocol, which has 140 signatories, an overwhelming majority of the world’s 190-odd nations. However, India continues to host a large population of refugees. In the main, they are treated kindly. According to the UNHCR, there were 204,600 refugees, asylum seekers and “others of concern” in India in 2011. They were made up of 13,200 people from Afghanistan, 16,300 from Myanmar, 2,100 from various other countries and the two older populations of around 100,000 Tibetans and 73,000 Sri Lankan Tamils. The UNHCR financially assisted 31,600 of them. UNHRC plays an important role in providing assistance to this refugees and asylum seekers but as UNHRC is an international organization its hand is domestically bound so it is not able work so efficiently.

Recently we observed the inconvenience caused by some European countries to deal with the migrant crises. India being an already densely populated country whether ready to handle an influx of refugee population is a question to be considered. Many anti-refugee law legislatures debated that with proper asylum and refugee law the number of refugees would increase which would, in turn, hamper the socio, economic and political scenario of the country. Shashi Tharoors new draft bill on asylum laws deals with a scenario of mass influx in chapter 5th but it only grants a government to put reasonable restriction while when international pressure is prevalent during a situation of a mass influx of refugee denial to their entry without reasonable reasons would, in turn, hamper international reputation of the country . Also, an important point to be noted is that this would give rise to migration workers to wrongfully present themselves as refugees and enter to the territory of India. A migrant worker is someone who  works in some other country for better job opportunities and employment.

Indian judiciary by its precedent has provided with fundamental rights guaranteed under article 19 and 21 of Indian constitution extending to people who aren’t citizens of India . So if situations arise it would be difficult for the government to expatriate refugees from the country.

Contrary if India has a proper asylum law it would facilitate many refugees in the country who still seek official status and recognition.For now.  UNHCR carries out a Refugee Status Determination (RSD) procedure, which starts with registration as asylum seekers. Following the registration, UNHCR will then conduct interviews with each individual asylum seeker accompanied by a qualified interpreter. This process provides a reasoned decision on whether refugee status is granted or not, and gives the individual an opportunity to appeal a decision if the claim is rejected. Also, the process of granting refugee status by the NHRC is a long process and many of the refugees do not get registered under this.  If there are proper asylum law and refugee laws the whole process of giving status would be managed by government authorities and this, in turn, would increase transparency and efficiency in the whole process. Proper documentation would also ensure unauthorized people living in India may get exposed as now they get out with the excuse of proper documentation. Granting rights to refugees and asylees with proper asylum laws would, in turn, serve an example to the world.


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