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Creating Legal Space for Refugees in India: the Milestones Crossed and the Roadmap for the Future

"The whole of South Asia is devoid of any standards and norms on any dimension of refugee reception, determination and protection. The fact that a quarter of the world's refugees find themselves in a non-standardized, if not hostile, refugee regime is a situation which does not augur well for either the mandate of UNHCR or for any civilized society. The South Asian nations have their own apprehensions, real or imaginary, about the utility of CSR 1951 to their situations. Because of historical mishaps, political ignorance, unstable democracies and exaggerated concern over national security, there is hardly any motivation for, or any environment in which there is a possibility for, the enactment of national legislation.

Non-governmental agencies, in their own way, have been trying to influence the States to accede to the Convention and, also, to promulgate national laws. The most noticeable contribution is the draft national law for India, ‘Refugees and Asylum Seekers Act’, discussed and approved by the Fourth Informal Consultations on Refugees and Migratory Movement Sessions in their Dacca Session. The draft legislation has been under consideration by the Indian government for some time but the issue, nonetheless, remains both important and urgent. There is an almost complete absence of discussion about it in any forum, even the media. This paper is an attempt to examine the provisions of the draft law, insofar as it conforms to the international standards, and to show where it is found wanting. The paper also evaluates the competence of the draft law to answer security considerations after 9/11. The paper suggests suitable amendments that may make the enactment of national law a reality, so that the void in the international regime of refugee protection can be filled effectively and fast."

Prabodh Saxena
International Journal of Refugee Law