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Scheme for refugees from Pakistan

  • Published
    1st Apr, 2023

The Central government of India is going to launch a scheme to provide financial assistance to refugees has hit a rough weather from Pakistan.

About the Scheme:
  • The scheme aims to provide financial assistance of ?5.5 lakh per family to over 5,000 Hindu and Sikh families who migrated to India from Pakistan’s West Punjab after the 1947 partition.
  • The scheme enables migrants and repatriates, who have suffered on account of displacement, to earn a reasonable income and to facilitate their inclusion in mainstream economic activities.

Concerns associated:

  • Poor implementation: Of the 5,764 eligible families, 70% of them are Dalits. The claims have been settled for only 903 families so far.
  • Lack of documents: several claims could not be processed, as the individuals were not able to produce original documents such as refugee cards, when they entered India from Pakistan’s Sialkot in 1947.
  • Corruption: Residents have made several pleas before the tehsildar (revenue officials) but they do not initiate any action. 
    • The scheme can increase corruption and the revenue officials may demand bribes before clearing the files.

Who are refugees?

  • Refugees are people outside their countries of origin who are in need of international protection because of a serious threat to their life, physical integrity or freedom in their country of origin as a result of persecution, armed conflict, violence or serious public disorder.

Illegal Migrant vs. Refugee:

  • A refugee is strictly defined in international law as a person who is fleeing persecution or conflict in her or his country of origin, however, there is no such precise and universal definition of a migrant.
  • A migrant is someone who chooses to move, and a refugee is someone who has been forced from their home.

Types of Refugee influx in India:

 Since its independence, India has accepted various groups of refugees from neighbouring countries, including:

  • Partition refugees from Pakistan in 1947.
  • Tibetan refugees that arrived in 1959.
  • Chakma and Hajong from present day Bangladesh in early 1960s.
  • Other Bangladeshi refugees in 1965 and 1971.
  • Sri Lankan Tamil refugees from the 1980s.
  • Most recently Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, 2022.

What are the challenges faced by refuges?

  • Limited access to quality education
  • Compromised mental health and the threat of ‘lost’ childhoods
  • Separation from families and greater vulnerability
  • Shifting family dynamics and responsibilities
  • Isolation in host community
  • Concern’s work with refugee children

Legal Framework for refugee in India:

  • In India, all foreign nationals including refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons are governed by the provisions contained in the
    • Foreigners Act 1946
    • Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939
    • Passport Act 1920
    • Citizenship Act 1955
  • Foreigners Act, 1946: The Foreigners Act, 1946, gives the central government the right to deport a foreign national.
  • Passport Act, 1920:According to the Passport Act, 1920, it is mandatory for anyone entering India through water, land or air to possess their passport and also prohibits the entry of the person not possessing the document.
  • As the Citizenship Act 1955,an illegal immigrant can be:
    • Foreign national who enters India on valid travel documents and stays beyond their validity, or
    • Foreign national who enters without valid travel documents.
  • While law and order is a State subjectunder the Indian Constitution, international relations and international borders are under the exclusive purview of the Union government.
  • This has resulted in a variety of agencies, both of the Central as well as the State governments, having to deal with refugee matters connected with law enforcement.
  • Article 51states that the state shall endeavour to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations in the dealings of organized people with one another.
  • In 2011, the Union government circulated to all states and Union Territories a Standard Operating Procedure to deal with foreign nationals who claimed to be refugees.
  • So, in a nutshell, India does not have on its statute book a specific and separate law to govern refugees.
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