Union Home Ministry takes up Kuki-Chin Bangladeshi refugee issue with External Affairs Ministry
Nov. 24, 2022

In News:

  • More than 200 people belonging to the Kuki-Chin-Mizo community from Bangladesh's Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) have entered Mizoram's Lawngtlai district.
    • They have entered Mizoram illegally due to an armed conflict between the neighbouring country's Army and an ethnic armed group.
    • The Bangladesh Rapid Action Battalion has launched operation against some insurgents belonging to the group.
  • The matter has been discussed by the Ministry of Home Affairs with the External Affairs Ministry.

What’s in Today’s Article:

  • Refugees in India – Statistics, India’s response, Laws and regulations dealing with refugees
  • News Summary

Refugees in India

  • As per the database of UNHCR, India is home to 2.44 lakh refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Of these, 2,03,235 refugees are from Sri Lanka and Tibet and 40,859 refugees and asylum seekers of other nationalities.
  • There are nearly half a million Nepali immigrants residing in India, according to the International Labour Organization.

India’s response

  • India ensures that refugees can access protection services that are on a par with their fellow Indian hosts.
  • For those refugees registered directly by the Government such as those from Sri Lanka, they are entitled to Aadhaar cards and PAN cards to enable their economic and financial inclusion.
    • They can have access to national welfare schemes and contribute effectively to the Indian economy.
  • However, for those registered with UNHCR, such as refugees from Afghanistan, Myanmar and other countries, while they have access to protection and limited assistance services, they do not possess government-issued documentation.
    • Thus, they are unable to open bank accounts and don’t get benefit from all government welfare schemes, and are thus inadvertently left behind.

Laws and regulations dealing with refugees in India

  • India does not have a national policy or a law to deal with refugees.
  • India is not a signatory to international laws such as the 1951 UN Convention and the 1967 Protocol.
    • These laws secure the rights of refugees to seek asylum and protect them from being sent back to life-threatening places.
  • Furthermore, India does not acknowledge the administrative role of the UNHCR within its territory and chooses to handle refugee crises unilaterally.
  • Those entering India without a visa are treated as illegal immigrants under the Foreigners Act or the Indian Passport Act.
  • The only protection they have is the right to life under Article 21 and protection against arbitrary abuse of power under Article 14 of the constitution.

News Summary

  • Many members of the Kuki-Chin community from Bangladesh have entered Mizoram on November 20.
  • Mizoram, already burdened with 30,000 refugees from coup-hit Myanmar, is now facing a fresh influx from neighbouring Bangladesh, with which it shares a 318-km-long partly fenced international border.

Steps taken by Mizoram Government

  • The Kuki-Chin Community from Bangladesh is a Christian community which shares ethnic ties with the people in Mizoram.
  • The Mizoram Government has approved the setting up of temporary shelters for the community.

Stand of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)

  • According to the MHA, foreign nationals who enter the country without valid travel documents are treated as illegal immigrants.
  • At present, members of Kuki-Chin-Mizo community are being referred to as “officially displaced persons” in the government records, as India does not have a law on refugees.
  • They have been allowed to enter India on humanitarian grounds.