India’s refugee policy – UPSC Prelims

  • India doesn’t have a refugee policy.
  • It is neither party to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, nor does it have a domestic refugee law.
  • India has largely stuck, in practice, to the principle of non-refoulement.
What is meant by non-refoulement?
  • To address the refugee problem, UN adopted the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee convention) in 1951. This was followed by the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1967.
  • Definition: The non-refoulement principle means that “no contracting State shall expel or return a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”
  • The principle of non-refoulement is codified in Article 33 of the Refugee Convention and in regional refugee law instruments.
  • Over the past decades, however, the principle has also been included in human rights treaties, such as
    • the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Article 3),
    • the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (Article 16)
  • The principle of non-refoulement applies regardless of whether a person flees from a country that enjoys peace or a country involved in an armed conflict. if there are substantial grounds for believing that the individual in question would be in danger of being subjected to violations of certain fundamental rights, the person cannot be returned. This would be the case, for instance, for a leader of an opposition group who would in all likelihood be tortured or summarily executed upon return.
  • The principle of non-refoulement prohibits not only the direct forcible return of persons in the above-described situations, but also indirect measures that have the same effect.
  • Principle of non-refoulement applies not only to recognized refugees, but also to those who have not had their status formally declared.
  • The non-refoulement obligation under Article 33 of the 1951 Convention is binding on all organs of a State party to the 1951 Convention and/or the 1967 Protocol.
  • Exception to non-refoulement under the 1951 Refugee convention: The benefit of may not, however, be claimed by a refugee whom there are reasonable grounds for regarding as a danger to the security of the country in which he [or she] is, or who, having been convicted by a final judgement of a particularly serious crime, constitutes a danger to the community of that country.”
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