Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer

Role of humanitarian law in protecting the rights of the refugees and asylum seekers for humanitarian obligation with special reference to ‘refugees policy’ in Indian context in the present-day scenario


One-third billion people of worldwide live outside their country, most of them are migrants. One-tenth of them, though, are refugees and asylum seekers. They are fleeing political persecution and other acute threats. Most refugees go to neighboring countries for their own, in part so that they can return home when circumstances change. The work of protecting refugees and asylum seekers is carried out by a vast array of organizations. Some are public, others private, some are global, others grassroots. The International Refugee Regime, under the guiding hand of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has proven adept at providing life-saving assistance in response to emergencies but has been challenged to provide meaningful opportunities for the long-term displaced or support the communities hosting them. Compounding the challenges, it faces is the retreat of many advanced democracies which rising anti-immigrant sentiment. Established by the 1951 convention and its 1967 protocol, the regime envisioned refugee status as a temporary one for people who fear or have suffered persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion and by means of a result require protection until they can return to their countries of origin, gain permanent residency in the country to which they have fled, or be resettled in a third country. The current state of the international refugee regime provides us with tried and tested tools to address them. The present article considers role of humanitarian law in protecting refugees and asylum seekers and their implications in the area of refugee protection. It also surveys the human rights of refugees in India and gives a brief account of the impact which human rights principles have made on the current programs and policies of UNHCR and the increasing involvement of human rights bodies in matters relating to refugees.


refugees/asylum seekers/displaced persons, extradition, expulsion, refoulement, international humanitarian law & obligation, refugees policy



  1. Article 14 (1), Universal Declaration of Human Rights (G.A. Resolution 217 (III); Art. XXVII, American Declaration, Art. 22 (7), American Convention on Human Rights, ILM, vol. 9 (1970), p 673, Vienna Declaration, part I (1993), para 23.
  2. Anna C. Bramwell, Refugees in the Age of Total War, 1998.
  3. Anil Shrivastav, “Need for Domestic: Refugee Law”, IJalsbui a ’s LeniMonthl5’.
  4. Arjun Nair, “National Refugee Law for India: Benefits and Road blocks”, Institute of Peaceand €DK;tIictstuJies (JPCS), http:ss'wxv.1pcs.ore. 2007 visited on I fL07.2009. see pp. l-10.
  5. B.C. Nirmal, Refugees and Human Rights, ISIL Year Book of International Humanitarian and Refugee Law.!HRL6/i2001.visitedonune8,2012.
  6. Sen B. Protection of Refugees: Bangkok Principles and After, Journal of the Idian Law Institute. 1992 April-June;34(2):187-217.
  7. Edwards Alice. “Human Rights, Refugees, and the Right to ‘Enjoy’ Asylum.” International Journal of Refugee Law. 2005;17(2):293-330.
  8. Gorlick Brian. Human Rights and Refugees: Enhancing Protection through International Human Rights Law. UNHCR Working Paper No. 30, 2000.
  9. Gil Loescher. “Refugees, A Global Human Rights and Security Crises’ in Dunne and Wheel, Human Rights in Global Politics, 1999, p245.
  10. Harpal Kaur Khera. The Legal Status of Refugees-Their Rights in the Country of Asylum, bir'hand Military Lavr' Journal. 1990;26(1):57-73.
  11. Harun ur Rashid. Refugee I-aw, 2000.
  12. Hedman, Eva-Lotta. “Refugees, IDPs, and Regional Security in the Asia-Pacific.” In CSCAP Regional Security Outlook 2009–2010: Security through Cooperation, edited by B. L. Job and E. E. Williams. Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific, Canada, 2009.
  13. Knox Thames H. “India’s Failure to Adequately Protect Refugees”, Human Rights Brief, (Issue I, 1999), p.7; (Centre for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Washington College of Law), p20.
  14. Isha Bothra. “The Law, Policy and Practice of Refugee Protection in India”, 2007. http//.'www.leua1service.india.comvisited on21.07.2009
  15. Saxena JN. “Legal Status of Refugees: Indian Position”, Indian Journal of International Law. 1986;26:501.
  16. Joan Fitzpatrick. Temporary Protection of Refugees: Elements of a Formalized Regime, American Journal of International Law. 2000 April;94(2):279-306.
  17. Justice Palok Basu. Law Relating to Protection of Human Rights underlie Indian Constitution and Allted Law, 2002.
  18. Linde Thomas. “Humanitarian Assistance for Migrants Irrespective of Their Status-Towards a Non-categorical Approach.” International Review of the Red Cross 875, 2009 September, 567-78.
  19. Manik Chakra Borty. Human Rights and Refugees: Problems, Law and Practices, 1998.
  20. Afzal Wani M. Refugee Crisis and the Universal Human Rights Instruments: An Overview of Fifty Years Developments, Journal of the Indian £au• Institute. 1999;41(2):201-221.
  21. Michell Moussalli. “Who is a Refugee?” Refugee Magazine, 1982 September.
  22. Mr. Verma made this observation at the SAARC LAW and UNHCR Seminar on Refugees.
  23. SAARC. Region held in New Delhi on 2 May 1997. This reasoning has been recognized in Visakha v. State of Rajasthan, AIR, 1997 August 13.
  24. Nagender Singh. The Roleand Record of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee, 1984, p1.
  25. Nairn Ahmed. Nurturing Hopeand Lendinga Hand to the Refugees, be Daily Star, 2000 June 4, 243.,2012.
  26. National Human Rights Commission v. State of Arunachal Pradesh and another, (1996) 1 SCC. 295; Khudiram Chakma v. Union of India, 1994, Supp. 1 SCC 614.
  27. OECD, UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). High- Level Conference on the Integration of Beneficiaries of International Protection: Summary & Conclusions, 2016.
  28. Peter Macaliste. Smith, Refugees and Displaced Persons in a Troubled World: Human Needs, Human Rights and the Role of the United Na:ions High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Indian Journal of International Law. 1997 Oct-Dec;37(4):633-657.
  29. Rajeev Dhavan. “India’s refugee Law and Policy”, The Hindu, °-5 June2004. In this respect, author discussed in detail Tibetan refugees in India priorto 1980 and after 198.
  30. Rights Law, 2000. http://www.unhrr.ore./ch visited on 2012 June 12.
  31. Rogue Raymundo. Refugees in Asia: A Human Rights Understanding, 1996. http://www.huriehts.orio/asia-pacific. visited on lune 12, 2012.
  32. Storey, Hugo. “EU Refugee Qualification Directive: A Brave New World?” International Journal of Refugee Law. 2008;20(1):1-49.
  33. The 1951 Refugee Convention (Art. 33(1)), UNHCR, Basic Legal Documents on Refugees, 1999.
  34. The Hindu, 2017 September 14.
  35. This article is based on “India does have a refugee problem” which was published in The Hindu on 10/04/2021. It talks about the issues related to India’s Refugee Policy.
  36. Ciri TN. Refugee Problems in Asiaand Africa ’Role of UNHCR. "Darren J.O’ Byrne, Harnan Rights: An introduction (2004), 2003.
  37. Türk, Volker, Frances Nicholson. “Refugee Protection in International Law: An Overall Perspective.” In Refugee Protection in International Law: UNHCR’s Global Consultations on International Protection, edited by Erika Feller, Volker Türk, and Frances Nicholson, 3-45. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  38. Türk, Volker. Statement at the 66th Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme (Agenda Item 2: International Protection), June 21-24. Geneva: UNHCR, 2016.
  39. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 5; UNHCR, Basic Legal documents, pp.43-47; and Convention against Torture, Articles 2 and 6. Article 7 of the ICCPR, 1966.
  40. Gupta UN. The Human Rights: Conventions and Indian Law, 2004.
  41. UNHCR. “2009 Global Trends, Refugees, Asylum-Seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons.” Division of Programme Support and Management, 2010 June 15.