Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2017, 11:55 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - India

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - India , 25 May 2004, available at: [accessed 13 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

At the end of 2003, some 317,000 refugees were living in India, including some 100,000 Tibetans, an estimated 50,000 refugees from Myanmar, some 15,000Lhotsampa – ethnic Nepalese refugees from Bhutan, and some 11,500 mandate refugees, mostly Afghans (10,300) assisted by UNHCR, and some 400 claims pending before UNHCR. In addition, almost 100,000 Sri Lankan refugees remained in India with some 20,000 living unrecognized by the government outside of camps, some 20,000 registered with the police outside the camps and almost 60,000 government-recognized refugees in camps. Thousands of Nepalese also fled to India during the year, and up to 40,000 Afghans were living in India unassisted by UNHCR. According to the Dalai Lama's office, some 3,500 Tibetans arrived in India in 2003. The Indian authorities permitted Tibetan refugees to enter, but the government has not granted legal temporary residence to most Tibetans who arrived in recent years.

Although India allows the Bhutanese Lhotsampa, unlike other refugees, to live and work freely in India pursuant to a friendship treaty, it does not confer permanent residence on them. Since most Bhutanese fled to India for the same reasons as those refugees in Nepal, the U.S. Committee for Refugees counts them as refugees.

Some 1,100 Sri Lankans and over 190 Afghans repatriated in 2003.

At least 650,000 persons were internally displaced in India. Among the displaced were 250,000-450,000 Kashmiris, an estimated 250,000 members of tribal groups in northeast India, an unknown number of persons, mostly Muslims, in Gujarat State in western India. The government impedes international access to internally displaced persons, and labels them migrants.

About 17,000 Kashmiris from the Indian-controlled area of Kashmir remained in Pakistan.

Some 16,200 persons from India sought asylum elsewhere during the year, including more than 3,500 in the United States, and almost 3,000 in the United Kingdom.

Developments in 2003

In January the government announced that it planned to expel an alleged 20 million illegal Bangladeshis, who Bangladeshi officials claim are Indian Muslims, and who India claims are Bangladesh's citizens. In February India attempted to forcibly deport several hundred individuals but Bangladeshi troops on heightened alert prevented the deportation. During the year Indian border guards shot at an unknown number Bangladeshis claiming they were illegally entering India.

In November, Indian police used water cannons, electric batons, and canes to disperse about 500 Myanmarese refugees who were demonstrating outside of the UNHCR office in New Delhi in protest of cuts in their assistance. At least 25 were injured, some seriously including head and chest wounds, and several hundred were detained for the night. In addition, authorities jailed 24 on charges of rioting and obstructing the police. UNHCR had cut subsistence payments to the Myanmarese by as much as 60 percent, with the stated goal of promoting self-reliance, although they agreed to continue to make payments to individuals they classified as vulnerable. However, India prohibits all refugees, even those recognized by UNHCR, from working. Even if refugees were able to find jobs with their limited Hindi and English, working in the underground economy would put them at risk of harassment, exploitation, and arrest for breaching the Foreigner's Act. However, UNHCR India advised it has a program to train the refugees and help them find suitable jobs, and also employs refugees directly for stipends. UNHCR notes that the Indian officials tolerate the refugees working in the informal sector.

Various Myanmarese Chin organizations and local Indian newspapers reported that residents in the state of Mizoram – with the acquiescence of state officials – evicted several thousand Chin refugees in from their homes and took them to the border where an unknown number were deported. Unconfirmed reports by local human rights groups stated that police supplied the trucks to and stationed troops at the border to prevent those returned from re-entering. UNHCR received reports that there were over 200 Myanmarese living in camps on the border in dire circumstances. Indian officials refused UNHCR access to the area. A Myanmarese immigrant who allegedly raped a nine-year-old girl in July heightened already tense relations between the Myanmarese and locals, provoking organizations such as the Mizoram Youth Organization and the Mizo Women's Organization to evict the Myanmarese. Agence France Press reported in August that the Mizoram state government announced it was launching a drive to detect and deport thousands to Myanmar in response to pressure from local residents. The Mizoram Home Minister formed a special border management team to carry out a village-to-village survey to detect Myanmarese after which, he said, anyone staying illegally would be deported or "their application for asylum might be taken up." He added, "We cannot allow our state to be a dumping ground for asylum seekers." Authorities generally do not allow the Myanmarese to claim asylum, although most are fleeing persecution from the military Junta in Myanmar.

Displacement in Kashmir region

On November 26, Pakistan and India entered into a ceasefire agreement and agreed to talks raising hopes for peace in the Kashmiri region, racked by ethnic, religious and secessionist conflict for decades. Although this reduced violence in the border area when Pakistan and Indian troops stopped shelling each other, violence and fighting continued in India's northern province of Jammu-Kashmir. Both India and the rebels stated ceasefire between Pakistan and India did not affect their operations inside Jammu-Kashmir. A total of 185 persons died from conflict in Kashmir between the date the ceasefire and the end of the year.

Before the ceasefire, Indian security forces killed hundreds in targeted and indiscriminate violence, and continued to detain individuals without trial or charge. Kashmiri militants extorted money from the civilian population in the region. Rebels killed, tortured, and raped hundreds more during the year. In Nadimarg village in March, suspected Islamic militants wearing Indian army uniforms dragged 24 Hindu civilians (known as Pandits), including two children, from their homes and shot them to death in front of a temple. Frightened survivors tried to flee to safety but police and civilian officials prevented them from leaving the area they said.

Displacement in the Northeastern region

All of the seven states in the region have major displacement due to ethnic strife and insurgency. Most of the violence in the area by rebels has been directed against ethnic non-Bodos and Bengalis civilians. The Indian government continued to deny foreigners access to most of the northeast. In Assam state communal rioting between ethnic Dimasa and Hmar erupted in March, displacing hundreds. One report noted 25 percent of the population in the North Cachar Hills fled their homes. Hmars drove ethnic Pnars were out of their homes for allegedly assisting the Dimasas. Fighting between the ethnic Meites and the Nagas during 2003 displaced an unknown number of persons in the Manipur hills, as well as Benaglis near the Assam-Manipur state border. Overall it is estimated that more than 20,000 persons fled their homes in Assam state during 2003.

In Arunachal Pradesh state violence has displaced at least 3,000 Chakmas in past years. Many residents view Chakma as refugees and resent their presence, although India's supreme court directed the government to grant the Chakma citizenship in 2000.

Displacement in Gujarat State

In 2003, sporadic violence and looting continued in Gujarat. Dominant castes and non-Muslims seized Muslim land following the 2002 riots.

The federal and state governments provided inadequate protection, assistance, and compensation to the displaced, most Muslims. Individuals released on bail from charges arising from the 2002 riots pressured displaced people to withdraw cases against them, threatening to use force to prevent them from returning to their homes. No estimates were available of the persons remaining displaced at the end of 2003.

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