Refugee Rights

Despite the fact that India is a host to diverse groups of refugees, the country has no specific laws or cohesive policy for refugees. India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention nor to its 1967 Protocol on the Status of Refugees. Therefore, the protection of refugees is confined to ad-hoc measures taken by the government of India, leaving refugees with little protection for their civil and political rights and virtually no legal provisions for their safety and welfare.

Against this backdrop, the Refugee Rights Initiative at HRLN works for the protection of the rights of refugees and to improve their situation in India with a mission to assist asylum seekers, refugees and other displaced populations in realizing their basic human rights and accessing the justice system.

What HRLN Does

HRLN’s Refugee Rights Initiative (RRI) team assists refugees and asylum seekers by way of counselling and legal aid. The RRI works as an implementing partner of the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR. HRLN also facilitates applications for Indian citizenship on behalf of eligible refugees who are interested in applying for naturalization in India. We litigate for safe asylum and protection of human rights of refugees by providing free legal aid to refugees and asylum seekers, including support in cases to secure residence permits, to stop refoulement, for refugees arrested or facing deportation, for the registration of complaints by the refugees at police stations, and for refugees in crisis situations. It represents women refugees in matrimonial cases, including for the custody of children. It also make interventions on behalf of refugees before various administrative bodies.

The team has worked with people from multiple nationalities, including but not limited to refugees from Tibet, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Burma, Laos, Liberia, Kazakhstan, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, China, and Afghanistan.

These activities are combined with efforts to identify durable solutions for the mandate refugees, which include voluntary repatriation, naturalization, and third-country resettlement. The initiative undertakes crisis-response missions, investigation, monitoring, and fact-finding visits, such as a mission undertaken in Mizoram to uncover the mass-migration of Chin refugees from Myanmar. Through its interventions and consultations, it works to bridge the gap between displaced communities and policy makers. It conducts training programmes for the general public, legal practitioners, law students, activists, social workers, and the police to sensitize them on how to use the existing laws for refugee protection.

Main Concerns

- Naturalization
- Renewal of refugee certificates
- Registration of new-arrival refugees
- Residence permits
- Asylum applications
- Deportations
- Mass migrations
- Ethnic/racial discrimination against refugees

HRLN Impact

Litigation: In February 2017, HRLN has filed an impleadment application in the PIL filed by an advocate Hunar Gutpa, at the High Court of Jammu seeking eviction of illegal immigrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh residing in the state. In this regard, HRLN identified and took consent from 23 individuals from different shanties In Jammu for making them applicants in the PIL, as they are the directly affected party.

Detention Work:
HRLN in West Bengal is presently handling 63 Rohingya individual cases, the number of which are increasing. These Rohingyas were arbitrarily arrested by border police at the Indo-Bangladesh border and charged under 14 Foreigners Act for illegally entering the country. HRLN in West Bengal had successfully secured the release of Rohingyas from prison including children from homes in the past. In 2017, HRLN has secured the release of 5 Rohingya refugees.

Stopping deportation:
HRLN in 2017 at Delhi has filed an SLP in the Supreme Court challenging the deportation order of refugees. A similar case was also filed at the High Court in Delhi where deportation threat was averted. The Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) was instructed to issue residential permit to the refugee.

Rescue Operation:
HRLN in 2015 conducted a rescue operation at Mathura where 25 Rohingya were released from bonded labour. These Rohingyas ended up working in bonded labour situation after they were lured and trafficked to India by an agent and kept them under controlled confinement and forced labour.

Trainings and fact findings:
HRLN has conducted workshops, and training and awareness sessions for jail welfare officers, lawyers, police, like-minded NGOs on refugee protection and its principles. It also conducts situational analysis on refugee population and related issues.

Free Legal Aid: HRLN provides free legal assistance in general refugee protection cases. This includes protection of women and children from sexual violence.
Webinar on Immigration, Citizenship and Human Rights

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Training on Refugee Rights and Discussion on the Issue of Migration in the Context of Northeast India

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Police Sensitisation and Trainings

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Refugees and the Law (Second Edition)

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Minors granted refugee status by UNHCR

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Workshop on Prevention and Response to Detention of Asylum seekers, Refugees and Stateless Person

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Lawyers Training on Legal Protection for Asylum Seekers and Refugees in India

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Legal Training on The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO Act), Delhi

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Workshop on Prevention and Response to Detention of Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Stateless Persons

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