T.N. requests temporary asylum for Tamils arriving from Sri Lanka

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T.N. requests temporary asylum for Tamils arriving from Sri Lanka

  • People from Tamil-speaking areas of Sri Lanka are arriving in Tamil Nadu illegally in the wake of the economic crisis in the island nation.
  • The Tamil Nadu government has requested the Union government to grant permission for “special provisions to give temporary asylum” to them, as in the case of the refugees staying in camps.
  • Currently, 58,547 Sri Lankan Tamils are staying in 108 rehabilitation camps in 29 districts across the State.
  • Food and all essential supplies are being provided to them by the Tamil Nadu government.

What is the difference between Refugee, Asylum Seeker & Migrant?


  • A refugee is a person who has fled their country of origin and is unable or unwilling to return because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
  • The risks to their safety and life were so great that they felt they had no choice but to leave and seek safety outside their country because their own government cannot or will not protect them from those dangers.
  • Refugees have a Right to international protection.

Asylum Seeker:

  • An asylum seeker is someone who claims to be a refugee but whose claim hasn’t been evaluated.
  • This person would have applied for asylum on the grounds that returning to his or her country would lead to persecution on account of race, religion, nationality or political beliefs.
  • Someone is an asylum seeker for so long as their application is pending.
  • So, not every asylum seeker will be recognised as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker.


  • There is no internationally accepted legal definition of a migrant.
  • Generally, migrants are the people staying outside their country of origin, who are neither asylum-seekers nor refugees.
  • Some migrants leave their country because they want to work, study or join family, for example. Others feel they must leave because of poverty, political unrest, gang violence, natural disasters or other serious circumstances that exist there.

UN Refugee Convention of 1951:

  • It is a United Nations multilateral treaty that defines who is a refugee, and sets out the rights of individuals who are granted asylum and the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum.
  • The Convention also sets out which people do not qualify as refugees. e.g., war criminals.
  • The core principle of the convention is non-refoulementwhich states that a person fleeing persecution from his own country should not be forced to return to his own country.
  • Signatories: 140 countries

1967 Protocol:

  • The UN Refugee Convention of 1951 was initially limited to protecting European refugees after the World War II.
  • The 1967 protocol removes these geographical as well as temporal limits that were part of the 1951 Convention.

Why India has not sign the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 protocol?

  • Borders in South Asia are extremely porous and any conflict can result in a mass movement of people. This can have two results:
  • A strain on local infrastructure and resources of the country
  • It can upset the demographic balance in India.
  • Hence India has signed neither the 1951 Refugee Convention nor the 1967 protocol.

Refugees in India:

  • Even though India is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention and the Protocol, and also does not have a national refugee protection framework, it accepts a large number of asylum seekers and refugees into the country.
  • As of 2020, there are more than 250,000 refugees and asylum seekers in India.
  • Most of the Government-protected refugees in India are Tibetans and Sri Lankan Tamils.
  • India deals with different refugee groups differently, that is, on a case by case basis.

Need for a Refugee Law in India:

  • Due to the absence of specific laws, refugees and asylum seekersare regulated under the Foreigners Act, 1946, Passport Act of 1967, Extradition Act of 1962, and Illegal Migrant (Determination by Tribunals) Act of 1983.
  • Absence of uniform law leads to unequal treatment towards refugee groups. This is reflected in howrefugees from Tibet are well received compared to refugees from Myanmar in India.
  • Due to absence of law, intermixing of refugees and migrant has created haphazard situation.
  • These laws do not distinguish between a foreigner who is voluntarily entering the borders of India and refugees who are forced to take shelter within India due to external reasons such as war.
  • The recent amendment to the Citizenship Act, 2019 provides a broader aspect to the issue but deals with it based on religious persecution only.
  • India does not have any special legal framework that deals with refugees as a class and view the issues of refugees as a human rights issue that needs special geopolitical, civil and economical attention.

Supreme Court’s Stand on Refugees:

  • The Supreme Court (SC) of India has passed several historical judgments concerning the deportation of refugees such as the case of Maiwand’s Trust of Afghan Human Freedom vs. State of Punjaband ND Pancholi vs. State of Punjab & Others.
  • SC has interpreted the word “person” in the Article 21 of theConstitution in an unprecedented judicial tradition.The term “person” also includes non-citizens.
  • In cases of Khudiram Chakma v. State of Arunachal Pradesh and National Human Rights Commission v. State of Arunachal Pradesh, the SC held that “all the refugees living in India have the right to life and the personal liberty” as enshrined in Article 21
  • The Supreme Court’s decisions have also reiterated that no refugees shall be treated in a manner that deprives them of their right to life or liberty without due process of law.

Exam Track

Prelims Track Away Refugee Asylum Seeker Migrant UN Refugee Convention of 1951 1967 Protocol