NHRC forum pitches for law to end ambiguity in dealing with refugees, asylum-seekers
A forum hosted by the NHRC Thursday unanimously pitched for enacting a national law to end ''adhocism and ambiguity'' in dealing with refugees and asylum-seekers in the country, officials said.
NHRC member justice M M Kumar chaired the event which was attended by NHRC chairperson justice (retd) Arun Kumar Mishra, other senior official of NHRC, and representatives of ministries of law, external affairs and home affairs, UN Human Rights Council, domain experts, among others. ''It was unanimously felt that though India had a very good track record and tradition of dealing with and handling the international refugees and asylum seekers since time immemorial, it is time a national law is enacted to include all the best practices and policies so far to have in place a uniformity and legal sanctity to ensure protection and realisation of human rights of refugees and asylum seekers across the country,” the NHRC said in a statement.
This was also to help them seek the benefits of other welfare measures by the government even while taking care of the national security, it added.
Earlier, inaugurating the open forum, justice Kumar said that by the virtue of the Constitution of India, every citizen is entitled to basic human rights. India is a signatory to various international conventions and treaties related to refugees and asylum seekers largely within the framework of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) but not on the basis of Citizenship Act, 1955, which he said, can be regulated to protect their rights, according to the statement.
Because protecting their rights merely on the basis of certain documents, depending on case to case basis, may lead to ambiguities in the uniform interpretation thereof compounding their problems in getting even basic necessities in different parts of the country in the absence of a national law, the statement said.
Justice Kumar said that ''legislature needs to be impressed upon for enacting a national law on refugees and asylum seekers to overcome adhocism and confusion as these may lead to subjectivity and unnecessary litigation''.
Triggering the discussion, NHRC Secretary General Bimbadhar Pradhan said that while there are various internationally acclaimed measures India has been using to deal with the refugees and asylum seekers, ''these are largely with the intent that normalcy can be restored only by sending them back to their respective countries on voluntary repatriation''.
Kavita Belani, Deputy Chief Mission, UNHCR said “refugees by definition are victims of human rights violations”.
She lauded India's support to refugees and displaced people with its home grown solutions in line with the global commitments, and described these as very inclusive and forward looking. However, she said these needed to be put in a structured policy on predictable lines for a national response to make it easy for all the refugees and asylum seekers get access to their rights. Besides the inaugural session, the open forum was divided into two thematic sessions focusing on policy framework and legal safeguards for refugees and asylum seekers; and issues and challenges in protection of right to life and dignity; and access to other socio- economic, educational and cultural rights, officials said.
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