India

UNHCR

What We Do in India

In India, UNHCR conducts registration and RSD in a timely and efficient manner and protect the growing number of people of concern in Delhi through outreach services, including legal, social and educational support, in areas where they reside. UNHCR focuses on responding to people with specific needs through collaboration with community- based and local NGO networks. Community development initiatives are designed to help refugees become more self-reliant.

While a large majority of those registered by UNHCR in India live in Delhi, an increasing number are settling outside the capital. The Government of India allows UNHCR mandate refugees to apply for long- term visas and work permits. Refugees and asylum-seekers have access to basic government services such as health care and education. In addition, they have access to the law-enforcement and justice systems. UNHCR and its partners work to facilitate this by providing information and interpretation services.

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 but people from countries as diverse as Somalia and Iraq have also sought help from the Office. Some 31,000 refugees and asylum-seekers of diverse origins are protected and assisted by the Office in India.

Solutions

While UNHCR does its best to help refugees in exile, it also tries to find durable solutions for them. Facilitating long term solutions for refugees is part of UNHCR's global mandate. Solutions include the voluntary repatriation of refugees who wish to return to their country in safety and dignity, or where possible, the local integration of refugees who wish to remain in India and qualify for Indian citizenship under national laws. In addition, UNHCR submits cases of a few refugees with particularly compelling protection needs for resettlement to a third country.

UNHCR is currently facilitating the voluntary return of Sri Lankan and Afghan refugees. Between 2002 and 2013, 12,056 refugees repatriated voluntarily to Sri Lanka, including 718 between January and December 2013, with UNHCR assistance. Around 70 persons were voluntarily repatriated to Afghanistan in 2013, with UNHCR assistance.

At the same time, UNHCR is also facilitating the naturalisation of Hindu and Sikh Afghan refugees who want to become Indian citizens. Till today around 690 Afghan refugees of Hindu and Sikh faiths, have acquired Indian citizenship. In addition, and with the support of a number of countries, UNHCR assists in the resettlement to third countries for those refugees with protection needs that cannot be met in India.

Refugee Status Determination

India is not a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or the 1967 Protocol, nor does it have a legal framework and national refugee status determination system. As a result, UNHCR processes claims for refugee status in India.

The UNHCR carries out a Refugee Status Determination (RSD) procedure, which starts with registration as asylum seekers. Following the registration, UNHCR will then conduct interviews with each individual asylum seeker accompanied by a qualified interpreter. This process provides a reasoned decision on whether refugee status is granted or not, and gives the individual an opportunity to appeal a decision if the claim is rejected.

At the end of December 2014, there are 5,074 asylum seekers and 25,865 refugees cumulatively registered with UNHCR India.

Assistance

The UNHCR Office in India works closely with the Government of India, non-governmental organizations and members of civil society in ensuring that asylum seekers and refugees in India are not involuntarily returned to their countries of origin, or of former residence and have access to international protection.

UNHCR together with its partners and civil society provides a range of services to support refugees and asylum-seekers in health, education, legal counseling, vocational skills and livelihoods.

UNHCR places great emphasis on every child's right to primary education and access to health care for all people of concern as a basic human right. In addition, UNHCR offers its support for all refugee and asylum-seeker children to attend public schools since the government allows them free access. This has recently been corroborated by the passing of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 under which every child between the ages of 6 to 14 years has the right to free and compulsory education.

In New Delhi, the Socio-Legal Information Centre provides legal assistance to protect persons under UNHCR's mandate. Bosco assists the refugees in accessing government hospitals, dispensaries and other medical facilities, which are generously made available by the Government to refugees and asylum seekers.

Besides, it offers education services and offers language classes, counseling and support for livelihood activities including vocational training. Bosco works very closely with refugee youth. In India UNHCR supports income generating activities to help refugees lead a life with dignity. Koshish, a popular line of traditional clothing made by refugee women is one of them.

The Gandhi National Memorial Society in Pune assists refugees and asylum seekers in Pune, the Confederation of Voluntary Agencies is UNHCR's partner in Hyderabad and Development And Justice Initiative (DAJI) supports refugees and asylum seekers in Jammu, Mewat and Jaipur.

Moreover, women protection is high on UNHCR's agenda. UNHCR along with its partner organization and Delhi police has been organizing self-defense training for refugee women. The training program aims at empowering women by equipping them with basic martial arts techniques.

Advocacy

Reaching out to civil society and interested interlocutors - lawyers, academics, think-tanks, media, the UN peacekeeping centre, human rights bodies - is crucial for generating discussion and spreading awareness and understanding about refugee issues.

UNHCR provides direct expertise to several legal forums and interested academic institutions. These activities include providing technical expertise to universities and research institutes .UNHCR is also involved in the post graduate diploma in refugee law given by the Indian Society of International Law in New Delhi.

Some of these initiatives include the establishment of the Chair on Refugee Law at the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) in Bangalore and support to the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (MCRG), for its Annual Winter Course on Forced Migration. UNHCR along with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) helped introduce a post graduate diploma course on Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and Refugee Law at the Indian Society of International Law (ISIL). Efforts to expand such activities in many educational institutions across India are ongoing. UNHCR works very closely with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to promote understanding of refugee issues. Other important initiatives include regular training sessions with the military through the Centre for UN Peace Keeping at the United Services Institute in New Delhi, police authorities and other security agencies across India. UNHCR also raises awareness on refugee issues with local schools and hospitals in New Delhi which refugees and asylum seekers access to encourage them to adopt a more inclusive approach towards this group.

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