India

UNHCR

Thousands of vulnerable people in India

UNHCR's primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. To this end, we strive to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another country, and to return home voluntarily. By helping refugees go back home or to settle in another country, UNHCR also seeks lasting solutions to their plight. UNHCR also has a mandate to prevent and reduce statelessness and protect stateless persons. In support of its core activities on behalf of refugees, UNHCR's Executive Committee and the UN General Assembly have authorized involvement with other groups. These include former refugees who have returned home and internally displaced people.

India grants asylum and provides direct assistance to some 200,000 refugees from neighbouring countries. As the country lacks a national legal framework for asylum, UNHCR conducts registration and refugee status determination (RSD), mostly for arrivals from Afghanistan and Myanmar. More than 27,000 refugees and asylum-seekers of diverse origins are protected and assisted by the Office in India.

Thousands of vulnerable people in India

UNHCR's primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. To this end, we strive to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another country, and to return home voluntarily. By helping refugees go back home or to settle in another country, UNHCR also seeks lasting solutions to their plight. UNHCR also has a mandate to prevent and reduce statelessness and protect stateless persons. In support of its core activities on behalf of refugees, UNHCR's Executive Committee and the UN General Assembly have authorized involvement with other groups. These include former refugees who have returned home and internally displaced people.

India grants asylum and provides direct assistance to some 200,000 refugees from neighbouring countries. As the country lacks a national legal framework for asylum, UNHCR conducts registration and refugee status determination (RSD), mostly for arrivals from Afghanistan and Myanmar. Some 31,000 refugees and asylum-seekers of diverse origins are protected and assisted by the Office in India.

Besides, there are more than 1,00,000 Tibetans and some 65,000 Sri Lankan refugees recognized and assisted by the Government of India

Stateless People

Nationality is a legal bond between a state and an individual, and statelessness refers to the condition of an individual who is not considered as a national by any state. Although stateless people may sometimes also be refugees, the two categories are distinct and both groups are of concern to UNHCR.

Statelessness occurs for a variety of reasons including discrimination against minority groups in nationality legislation, failure to include all residents in the body of citizens when a state becomes independent (state succession) and conflicts of laws between states. Statelessness is a massive problem that affects at least 10 million people worldwide. Statelessness also has a terrible impact on the lives of individuals. Possession of nationality is essential for full participation in society and a prerequisite for the enjoyment of the full range of human rights.

While human rights are generally to be enjoyed by everyone, selected rights such as the right to vote may be limited to nationals. Of even greater concern is that many more rights of stateless people are violated in practice - they are often unable to obtain identity documents; they may be detained because they are stateless; and they could be denied access to education and health services or blocked from obtaining employment.

Given the seriousness of the problem, the UN in 1954 adopted the Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.

Yet the problem can be prevented through adequate nationality legislation and procedures as well as universal birth registration. UNHCR has been given a mandate to work with governments to prevent statelessness from occurring, to resolve those cases that do occur and to protect the rights of stateless persons.

Returnees

For many people forced from their homes, a voluntary return home in safety and dignity marks the successful end to the trauma. This is the best possible solution for those who have been uprooted from their homes. Of the other "durable solutions" that UNHCR seeks for refugees, only a minority have the opportunity to be resettled to third countries or to be locally integrated into their host societies.

Over the years, UNHCR has been assisting voluntary repatriation programmes that have brought many refugees home. UNHCR India is currently facilitating the voluntary return of Sri Lankan and Afghan refugees.

UNHCR has been facilitating the voluntary repatriation of Sri Lankan refugees in cooperation with the Governments of India and Sri Lanka. Between 2002 and 2013, 12,056 refugees repatriated voluntarily to Sri Lanka, including 718 between January and December 2013, with UNHCR assistance. Around 70 refugees were voluntarily repatriated to Afghanistan in 2013.

Refugees

The 1951 Refugee Convention spells out that a refugee is someone who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.

When refugees flee their country of origin, or of their former residence, they leave behind most of their lives, their homes and belongings and sometimes also their family. Refugees cannot be protected by their own country as they were forced to flee from it. Therefore, their protection and assistance then becomes a matter of the responsibility of the international community.

UNHCR together with its partners promote protection activities and assistance programmes to ensure that their basic needs are met while waiting for a durable solution.

Asylum-Seeker

The terms asylum-seeker and refugee are often confused: an asylum-seeker is someone who identifies himself/herself as a refugee, but whose claim for protection has not yet been assessed.

An asylum-seeker claim for protection is assessed in an individual Refugee Status Determination (RSD) procedure, which effectively starts with the registration of the asylum seeker. Following the registration, UNHCR makes use of a qualified interpreter to conduct an interview of the asylum seeker. The interview process leads to a reasoned decision on whether refugee status is to be granted or not. The asylum-seeker is further granted an opportunity to appeal a decision that has rejected his or her claim for protection.

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