India not to sign refugee convention: Patil

March 24th, 2008 - 3:26 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 24 (IANS) India does not intend signing the International Convention for Refugees 1951, which specifies the rights of refugees, Home Minister Shivraj Patil said here Monday. “We are doing good without signing any international treaty,” Patil told IANS on the sidelines of the Conference on Relief and Rehabilitation of Displaced Persons convened by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

“Though India has not signed the convention, its track record in hosting refugees has been unblemished. We have never forced a single refugee out of the country,” the minister said.

India, which is home to at least 330,000 refugees, has mandated the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to function in the country. But it has not signed two fundamental international instruments of refugee protection - the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Refugee Protocol.

India’s official figure for refugee population includes about 143,000 Sri Lankans, 110,000 Tibetans, an estimated 52,000 Chin and other minorities from Myanmar, 15,000 from Bhutan and 11,400 from Afghanistan.

In 1997, the NHRC had drafted a Model National Law on Refugees but the proposal was never considered by parliament. The draft, besides specifying the rights and duties of refugees, is aimed at protecting refugees from being forced home to face unsafe conditions or persecution.

“The NHRC had proposed a national law to the government and it is still under consideration,” NHRC chairperson S. Rajendra Babu told IANS.

Though the Foreigners Act 1946 is the law to deal with incoming refugees and asylum seekers, it does not define ‘refugee’. The term ‘foreigner’ is used under the Indian law to cover the outsiders temporarily or permanently staying in the country.

India has signed the Additional Terrorism Protocol of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) of January 2004 that permits SAARC nations to protect those being prosecuted or punished on account of their race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin or political opinion.

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