Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 09:05 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2005 - India

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 20 June 2005
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2005 - India , 20 June 2005, available at: [accessed 18 January 2018]
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.

Refoulement/Asylum  India deported Myanmarese from Mizoram State in the northeast, including dozens of refugees, some for illegal entry and others for alleged ties to the insurgent Chin National Force. The Government allowed neither the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) nor international organizations in the area.

Although the Supreme Court had declared in 1996 that the Constitution's guarantees of life and personal liberty protected refugees from refoulement, India had no refugee law and treated groups of refugees differently based on their nationality. The Government recognized Tibetans from China and Tamils from Sri Lanka as refugees, although newly-arrived Tibetans had difficulty obtaining residence permits. India granted residence permits automatically only to children of Tibetans who arrived before 1979. The Government also allowed about 15,000 Lhotsampa refugees from Bhutan to live freely in West Bengal and Assam States under a friendship treaty with Bhutan, but did not grant them permanent residence. The Government considered Myanmarese and other refugees to be ordinary migrants.

The Government did not grant UNHCR formal status in the country but allowed the agency access to refugees living in urban centers and in Tamil Nadu State. It did not formally recognize UNHCR refugee status as protection for refugees. Local police threatened and extorted money from its bearers. Dozens of Myanmarese, who had been evicted from their homes during a xenophobic campaign of 2003, came to New Delhi and sought asylum with UNHCR, but UNHCR denied asylum to most of them.

The escalation of the Maoist insurgency and the government-declared state of emergency in Nepal caused a dramatic increase in inflows. As many as 220,000 Nepalis reportedly had entered between December 2002 and January 2003, many fleeing the Maoist insurgency. In January 2004, Nepalis reportedly arrived in New Delhi at the rate of about 100 per day. Around March, following the Maoists' abduction of villagers in southwest Nepal near the Indian border, 3,000 reportedly fled to India. Between February and March 2005, tens of thousands of Nepali villagers reportedly fled to India after Maoist retaliations for village militia resistance in Kapilvastu District. India's border with Nepal was largely open and Nepalis did not require visas to enter, but Indian police reportedly required them to obtain letters from Nepali authorities attesting that they were not Maoists.

UNHCR recognized about 10,400 Afghan refugees under its mandate in New Delhi but there were at least 20,000 additional Afghans that it did not. According to UNHCR, some 2,700 Afghan refugees who had entered legally ten or more years ago were eligible to naturalize, although only a fifth had applied due to large processing backlogs in the Delhi State Government.

Detention  Local police arrested ethnic Chin from Myanmar for illegal entry under the Foreigners' Act of 1946, which made no distinction between illegal migrants and refugees. The Government granted Tibetans and Tamils identity documents that protected them from such arrests. Police collected personal details of Nepali visitors and reportedly made identification certificates compulsory for them to stay in hotels or to work.

Right to Earn a Livelihood  India did not permit refugees without residence papers to work, open bank accounts, rent houses, or run businesses, and required those with papers to obtain permits from the Ministry of Labour to work. Although many worked in the informal sector, they did so without the protection of the law and were subject to harassment.

The Government allowed Tibetan refugees to farm and run agro-industrial and handicraft enterprises. Some worked for the Government as schoolteachers, health workers, and cooperative employees. The Government allowed Lhotsampa refugees from Bhutan to work freely. Other refugees had no right to work or run businesses and Mizo Youth Association (YMA) activists in Mizoram issued notices to Myanmarese to close their businesses.

Freedom of Movement and Residence  Tibetan refugees in settlement areas could leave at will and many did so for jobs. Nevertheless, in February, police attacked a group of Tibetan Youth Congress marchers in Dharamsala to prevent their travel to New Delhi to participate in Tibetan Uprising Day. The Government did not limit the movement of Lhotsampa Bhutanese refugees but severely restricted the movement of Tamil refugees in government camps, imposing morning and evening curfews. The Government reportedly associated the Tamils with terrorist groups from Sri Lanka and the assassins of former Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandi, and reserved the right to withhold monthly stipends and rations from refugees. The Government did not restrict the movement of other Tamil refugees who lived outside camps, but offered them no aid.

The YMA regularly harassed Myanmarese refugees in Mizoram, issued them eviction notices, and intimidated landlords from renting to them, forcing them to move from place to place every few months.

The Government granted Tibetan and Tamil refugees travel permits.

Public Relief and Education  The Government and Central Tibetan Administration ran schools in which most Tibetan refugee children enrolled. The Central Tibetan Administration also established primary healthcare centers in almost every settlement.

The Ministry of Home Affairs stated that the Government provided Sri Lankan refugees shelter in camps, clothing, subsidized rations, medical care and subsistence allowances, and spent money on housing for Tibetans as well. Refugee children could attend Indian schools, but universities imposed quotas on refugee attendance.

The Government did not help Myanmarese refugees. Clinics assisted them in New Delhi but reported that UNHCR and its partner organizations did not regularly reimburse them. UNHCR phased out subsistence allowances.

The Government granted Tamil refugees in government-run camps in Tamil Nadu small monthly stipends and a few basic supplies and granted Tibetan and Tamil refugees scholarships. At least 20,000 unrecognized Afghan refugees received no assistance.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)  There were over half a million IDPs. About 262,000 were mostly Pandits (Hindu Brahmans) in Jammu and Kashmir. About 239,000 were in northeastern states, including 150,000 in Assam, about 85,000 in Tripura, 3,000 in Arunachal Pradesh, and over 600 in Manipur. Some of the 100,000 Muslims displaced by communal violence in Gujarat State in 2002 also remained displaced as the state government failed to arrest and convict those responsible for the violence.

The central and state governments gave housing and rations to IDPs in Jammu and Kashmir but did not give returnees money, land, or housing loans as it had promised. Over 12,000 continued to live in camps in Devipur in the Akhnoor sector.

In Assam, authorities evicted about 4,500 Muslim families from several villages in Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon Districts. The IDPs refused to accept the Government's resettlement offer in other districts. In 2004, some of the people displaced from Assam the previous year returned to their homes. As of March 2004, about 2,000 Dimasas, displaced by communal rioting in 2003 between the Dimasa and Hmar tribes over land and governance in the northeast, were still living in camps in southern Assam as well as in Manipur and Mizoram. About 3,000 others had likely returned to their homes.

The chief minister of Mizoram did not allow Reang (also known as Bru) IDPs to return from Tripura to Mizoram as he had promised. Over 35,000 Reang IDPs who fled their homes following ethnic violence in 1997 remained in six camps in North Tripura. While displaced Kashmiri Pandits from Jammu and Kashmir received Rs. 750 ($17) per person, Reang received only Rs. 3 or a few cents. In 2003, the Mizoram Chief Electoral Office had submitted the names of some 14,600 Reang to the Election Commission as part of a special revision of electoral rolls, but the Government only registered some 4,300. In October, the Guwahati High Court ordered the Tripura, Mizoram, and central governments to include Reang in the electoral rolls.

The Chakma, tribal Buddhists, and Hajong, tribal Hindus, fled from Bangladesh to India in the 1960s. The Government since granted them legal residence but successive state governments pushed for their deportation and local groups violently displaced at least 3,000. In January 2004, about 1,500 Chakma and Hajong enrolled in the Arunachal Pradesh's voter list.

Between 1999 and 2003, violence displaced nearly 47,800 persons in Tripura, especially in the west. The Government did not resettle nearly 800 ethnic Chakmas displaced from Chawmanu after armed groups attacked them in April 2004. Since then, conflict between security forces and armed opposition groups displaced 600 residents of ten remote villages in Chandel District, Manipur, near the Myanmar border. Army personnel restricted the movement of the villagers, thoroughly checked any goods brought from outside, and restricted villagers from planting.

Copyright 2005, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

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