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Kuki-Chin Bangladeshi Refugees

Context

  • Over 200 members of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo community from Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) have arrived in Mizoram’s Lawngtlai district.
    • They have entered Mizoram illegally as a result of an armed conflict between the Army of the neighbouring country and an ethnic armed group.
    • The Bangladesh Rapid Action Battalion has launched an operation against some of the group’s insurgents; and
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs has discussed the matter with the Ministry of External Affairs.

Relevance

GS Paper 3: Internal security

Mains Question

Discuss India’s refugee policy. How should India respond to the Kuki-Chin crisis, in your opinion? (250 Words)


Indian refugees

  • According to the UNHCR database, India is home to 2.44 lakh refugees and asylum seekers, including 2,03,235 from Sri Lanka and Tibet and 40,859 from other nationalities.
  • According to the International Labour Organization, nearly 500,000 Nepali immigrants live in India.

India’s reaction

  • India ensures that refugees have equal access to protection services as their Indian hosts.
  • Those refugees registered directly by the government, such as those from Sri Lanka, are entitled to Aadhaar cards and PAN cards, allowing them to participate in economic and financial activities.
    • They can participate in national welfare schemes and contribute effectively to the Indian economy.
  • Those registered with UNHCR, such as refugees from Afghanistan, Myanmar, and other countries, have access to protection and limited assistance services but lack government-issued documentation.
  • As a result, they are unable to open bank accounts and do not qualify for all government welfare programmes, and are thus inadvertently left behind.

India’s laws and regulations governing refugees

  • There is no national policy or law in India dealing with refugees.
  • India has not ratified international treaties such as the 1951 UN Convention and the 1967 Protocol.
    • These laws protect refugees’ rights to seek asylum and prevent them from being returned to life-threatening situations.
  • Furthermore, India does not recognise the UNHCR’s administrative role within its borders and prefers to handle refugee crises unilaterally.
  • Those who enter India without a visa are considered illegal immigrants under the Foreigners Act or the Indian Passport Act, and their only protection is the right to life under Article 21 and the right against arbitrary abuse of power under Article 14 of the constitution.
  • On November 20, many members of the Kuki-Chin community from Bangladesh arrived in Mizoram.
  • Mizoram, which already has 30,000 refugees from Myanmar’s coup, is now facing a new influx from neighbouring Bangladesh, with which it shares a 318-kilometer-long partially fenced international border.

Mizoram Government’s Initiatives

  • The Kuki-Chin Community of Bangladesh is a Christian group with ethnic ties to the people of Mizoram.
  • Mizoram’s government has authorised the construction of temporary shelters for the community.

Stand of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)

  • According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), foreign nationals who enter the country without valid travel documents are considered illegal immigrants.
  • Members of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo community are currently referred to as “officially displaced persons” in government records because India lacks a refugee law.
  • They were granted entry into India on humanitarian grounds.

 

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