Monday, April 28, 2014

Statelessness in India

Shuvro Prosun Sarker

The principal objective behind any research on statelessness in India should be to find out the communities/groups within India who are lacking nationality, rather protection of nationality, and to find out the means and methods to cover them under state protection or international protection. However, there is possibility that, this kind of research may trace communities/groups from both ways that ‘do not have the nationality of any state legally’ or ‘do not count on their state for protection’. It is noteworthy for a country like India that the second category has emerged from neighbouring states in relation to episodes of irregular migration because of sustained or systemic violation of basic human rights towards some communities/groups by their own state/ majority community. The situation actually leaves the victims virtually unprotected by the agencies of the state. This category of persons indicates that effective statelessness may no longer reflect in the relationship between the state and the person concerned. In one side there is hope that the host state will play a compassionate role and in other side there are strict law of the land which is defining the nature of nationality. All these factors raised the question of protection for this vulnerable class which may be called on by advocating for a new international protocol or evocative acts or advocacy for regional pact or direct national legislation.

Though there are two UN conventions on statelessness, but these two can’t make India liable to go by their terms as India has not acceded/ ratified/ adopted/ signed the conventions. The limitation of these conventions to reduce statelessness for a country like India is a writ of bit large as there is a growing number of people who are stateless de facto. Their human rights are more vulnerable as they have left the state to which they have a formal connection and also do not get protection by the host state as doubtful citizens. The relationship between protection of these stateless persons and human rights is one of the primary issues in India. It is necessary to consider for alternative protection for these stateless persons under the two human rights covenants as the hierarchy of non-citizens in a state highlights the gap between protection and human rights. There is expansion of non-derogable rights and the concept of social, economic and cultural rights started in the twentieth century, along with international affirmation of universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of human rights. All these should come together to consider the identification of specific groups/ communities whose human rights require special protection.

With regard to customary practices of international law, non refoulment is the principle with regard to refugees and stateless-refugees which is non-derogable in nature. Apart from that there is a significant body of international law that has elaborated the principle of nondiscrimination as a non-derogable norm that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity and related criteria. India’s acceding of ICCPR, ICESCR, CRC and ratification of ICERD and CEDAW have excelled the quantum of protection from the idea of compassion to rights. This development of a body of international law which triggered the prohibition of nationality based discrimination has been further encouraged by the advocacy efforts of international organizations, non-governmental actors, and particular states. Also the recent increase in public information and advocacy has served to remind international bodies and non-governmental organizations that the persistence of statelessness is a complex matter that underlines the centrality of effective protection. There is growing pressure from international NGOs, refugee organizations, and human rights monitoring bodies to provide protection to those who do not fall under either the refugee convention or the conventions on statelessness.

There is a specific case decided by the Supreme Court of India in the matter of chakmas from CHT, East Pakistan (presently Bangladesh) where the Court decided the case in favour of the chakmas with specific direction to process their citizenship application through the process established by law. It is mentionable here that a new public interest litigation, Swajan & Anr. Vs. Union of India & Anr., is pending before the Supreme Court right now asking for specific direction to confer citizenship/ refugee status to the Bangladeshi minorities staying in the State of Assam and the Court has already issued notice to the respondents Union of India and State of Assam. So it is evident that the expansion of human rights regime of stateless persons of the second category has got a positive momentum in India along with the expansion of locus standi of foreigners staying in India. Now it’s time to see whether Supreme Court comes out with a decision based on human rights consideration or on the ground of internal security and economic constraint of India. Countless number of deemed stateless or deemed nationals are looking forward to get Justice!

The Enduring ‘Problem ‘ of Refugee Protection in Hong Kong

The HKSAR stands unique in the world as a post-industrialized state which is not subject to the terms of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (“the Refugee Convention”) despite both its former colonial (the United Kingdom) and current (the PRC) superstructures having ratified and implemented its provisions in turn. Nonetheless, the Hong Kong government has very recently introduced a unified screening mechanism (USM) that will evaluate claims under the Torture Convention, the ICCPR and Refugee Convention. This new system arose, not from government initiative, rather the effects of government inertia with unmanageable backlogs of claimants reaching into the several thousands.

Space precludes a detailed examination of the weaknesses of the refugee protection system the USM replaced (for further, see Ramsden and Marsh). It remains to be seen whether the USM is able to improve matters for those on the ground who are subject to its revised procedures. Needless to say, the difficult personal circumstances experienced by refugees recognized under the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (“UNHCR”) in Hong Kong, and those of torture claimants screened-in by the Administration pursuant to the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”) are unlikely to improve due to the concerning low levels of welfare support on offer through the government.

Refugee protection presents a very specific set of issues to the SAR vis-à-vis the status of the socio-economic rights of these individuals. In particular, Hong Kong has a firm policy of not absorbing those who achieve refugee status or are successful torture applicants. Instead, those mandated refugees are required to wait for inordinately long periods of time, sometimes spanning half-decades in poor living conditions with further limits of food, health, education and employment.

Bearing in mind the long delays experienced in re-settling mandated refugees, the insufficiency of socio-economic provision for this marginalized group has been increasingly voiced by interested parties including NGOs set up to fill the ‘welfare gap’ left by government (state support available to these persons has been known to consist of no more than a bag of uncooked rice). The problem of insufficient provision has been exacerbated by the unwillingness of the Hong Kong government to allow successful claimants the right to work. The administration’s current policy on permitting refugees the right to work is a draconian one. The circumstances in which the Director of immigration will permit a refugee to work amounts to a de facto ban on the refugee population seeking paid employment in Hong Kong (in effect, only in cases where the restriction can induce intense mental and physical suffering or humiliation of a degree sufficient to constitute inhuman or degrading treatment under the terms of the CAT).

This governmental stance ignores that the fundamental right of refugees to work in gainful employment is not only embedded in articles 17, 18 and 19 the Convention itself, but also beyond the borders of this framework, it is now well recognized that refugees and those seeking subsidiary protection enjoy inalienable economic rights as human rights under various international instruments, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“ICESCR”), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Civil Rights (“ICCPR”), the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and various provisions of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, with seminal guidance on the subject offered by Michigan Guidelines on the Right to Work (2010).

Nevertheless, a recent decision of the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong (GA v Director of Immigration [2014]) shot down any remaining hope that the right to work would be extended beyond its current restriction. Instead the exclusion clause contained in article 39(1) of the Bill of Rights Ordinance (“BORO”) was relied on by the Court of Final Appeal, which isolates non-nationals from the full enjoyment of their rights under international law in order, it is said, to protect the Region’s fragile territorial boundaries. The judgment is a very disappointing outcome for genuine claimants who face years ahead with no other option but the indignity of reliance on meagre welfare provision with no real opportunity to provide for themselves and any family members they may have with them. The CFA decision has resulted in the unsustainable destitution of asylum seekers, refugees and torture claimants, who must inevitably survive on the charity of others both before and after a historically inefficient and chronically slow administrative system delivers a decision on their case.

The Rohingya Scenario: Role of Bangladesh and India in Myanmar’s Concealed Tragedy

In Myanmar around June 2012, a Buddhist woman was raped and killed by three Muslim men. In a revenge attack following the incident, ten Muslim men were killed, and the rest of the story has been hidden from the rest of the world. This was only the story that seemed to be the last straw of the ongoing crisis between the two ethnic groups: the Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority. It soon created a domino effect, with the Rohingya Muslims toppling over in a tragic game of life and death, which led to them getting internally displaced. Further tension caused some of the 140,000 internally displaced to attempt to flee across the border.

Who are the Rohingya?

The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority of Myanmar living in northern Arakan/ Rakhine State in the western part of the country. There are approximately 1.33 million Rohingya in Myanmar, but the country's 1982 Citizenship Law denies them citizenship, despite the fact that Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations. The Burmese President Thein Sein blatantly has denied the existence of the Rohingya as an ethnic group of Myanmar, and instead, has called them ‘Bengali’, which in that region is a discriminatory, racist term used to imply that Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, which however, is false.

The Unspoken Crisis in Bangladesh:

In April 2011, the Rohingya were trapped between serious constraint in their country and ill-use in neighboring nations. Bangladesh had facilitated a huge number of Rohingya people escaping mistreatment for more than three decades, yet no less than 200,000 Rohingya refugees had any legitimate rights there. Even now, they live in griminess, get extremely constrained support and are liable to capture, blackmail and confinement. Unregistered exiled women and young girls are especially defenceless against sexual and physical strike. The global group must urge the Bangladeshi government to enrol undocumented refugees and enhance insurance for all defenceless Rohingyas. Contributor governments should likewise work to restart and expansion resettlement of displaced people to a third nation and increment help for groups facilitating these refugees.

Treatment of the Rohingya in Bangladesh:

Even after decades of the Burmese Rohingya escaping mistreatment and acquiring shelter in Bangladesh, tension was unwavering. Inter communal viciousness in Myanmar's Rakhine State, and ensuing state-supported mistreatment and focused on ambushes against Muslim populaces, have thrown a global focus on this disregarded populace, and offered an open door to resolution the status of both stateless Rohingya inside Myanmar and those Rohingya who are outcasts in neighboring nations. This could have been an open door for Bangladesh to seize the issue and create a much required refugee arrangement. However, the country is mobilizing against the Rohingya by declining entry to the refugees and confining philanthropic help. This reaction, other than speaking to a break of global law, will debilitate Bangladesh's capacity to secure universal backing as exchanges of the Rohingya's situation increase. The legislatures of Bangladesh and Myanmar ought to be participating in reciprocal - and maybe multilateral - examinations about how to ensure the privileges of the Rohingya group, which is clearly not being carried out.

India’s Role:

The role of India in the issue has been heavily debated. The 2013 blasts in Bodh Gaya triggered suspicions of terrorist linkages to the Rohingya. Responding to the incident in 2013, “Blasts like this have the dual purpose of attacking Buddhist shrines, and attacking India,” Ajai Sahni of the South Asia Terrorism Portal said.

So, caught between the Buddhist-dominated Myanmar and Muslim-dominated Bangladesh, the Rohingyas are entering India through the northeast, say officials. But this is not considered good news for the Indian Home Ministry. The refugees who have been detained under the Foreigners Act, 1946 are to be sent to the Tihar Jail, Delhi, the only place where the UNHCR has jurisdiction. After acquiring refugee status, they will be sent to the refugee camp in Jammu. However, there is a problem of plenty as India does not have the resources to house such a large number which is anticipated.

Their Plight Today:

Myanmar has about 800,000 stateless Rohingyas, without access to basic healthcare or education. About 30,000 Rohingya outcasts formally live in Bangladeshi camps today. Informally, there are more are 200,000 unregistered Rohingya there. The enrolled ones are given help and backing by The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Bangladesh government. Unregistered refugees are entitled to nothing. Bangkok-based UNHCR agent Vivian Tan portrayed this as an extremely “dire situation.”

A Place for the Poor: Slum Dwelling in Dhaka City

A wall between the rich and poor is being built, so that poverty does not annoy the powerful and the poor are obliged to die in the silence of history - Pablo Richard

In August 2012 I started my fieldwork Dhaka’s largest squatter settlement: Korail bosti. During my six months of research I witnessed a rather peculiar construction project evolve: a large wall was being erected to separate the shacks at the fringes of the slum from the main road. Tea-stalls that were previously directly located at roadside were now all at once separated from their customers by a blind wall. Moreover, many of the narrow goli’s that meander through Korail suddenly found themselves destined toward a dead end.

While the wall gradually gained height, I wondered what kind of physical and symbolical division this boundary was expected to realize? Fort his rather insignificant construction project seemed to hint at a bigger question, namely: ‘What place do the urban poor have within the landscape of megacities such as Dhaka?’

Slums have existed in Dhaka for over 200 years, but became a prominent element of the city’s landscape after Bangladesh gained independence in 1971. From the early-1970s onwards landlessness, unemployment and natural disasters in rural areas instigated many people to resettle in urban areas. The continuous influx of migrants makes Dhaka currently the fastest growing city in the world. The capital of Bangladesh counts over 13.5 million inhabitants, of which one-third is estimated to livein squatter settlements.

From the city’s point of view the constant influx of (poor) urban migrants is generally perceived as a nuisance, as their arrival is adding to the already severe population pressure. In addition, many property developers are aiming for the hectares of land that are now ‘illegally’ occupied by slum dwellers. For, although the inhabitants of Korail monthly rent (approximately 2,000 Taka) to local landlords, they are paradoxically not legally entitled to their houses. Ongoing disputes over land ownership have resulted in highly informal and insecure land-tenure arrangements, which in combination with the unreliability of public services- such as drainage and water supply – underscore people’s second-class position within the city.

Slum dwellers themselves are all too aware of their precarious position within the city. When discussing the construction of the wall around Korail, a male shopkeeper expressed his fear that the wall would be a forebode of eviction and forced displacement. For rumor had it that a multiple story building would be constructed on the grounds next to the wall. The reality has proved that fear of displacement is all but unfounded. In April 2012a large part of Korail was forcibly evicted, leaving an estimated 2,000 families homeless. Many saw their houses being destroyed by bulldozers and were forced to seek shelter under pieces of plastic during the days of rainfall that succeeded the eviction.

Although eviction is probably the most violent form of displacement that slum dwellers are faced with, there are also more subtle threats that coincide with living in a squatter settlement; forms of displacement that are characterized by neglect rather than by orchestrated force. The non-durable housing structures within Korail, for example, coincide with the ever-simmering possibility of collapse. This threat is especially salient for families whose houses have been built over the nearby lake. Since land is a scarce resource, local landlords have resorted to building houses directly over the surface of the lake, using bamboo poles for support. The damp and fumes that rise up from the polluted water make the bamboo floors moist and consequently result in a constant threat of collapse.

The risk of fire outbreaks is another danger that has the capacity for drastically uprooting the community and is inherent to living in an overpopulated and largely unplanned squatter settlement. A community leader that I spoke to in Korail emphasized the need for more fire extinguishers within the locality. He explained that the improvised way in which the gas-lines have been set up results in a constant threat of fire outbreaks. Moreover, the congested roads and the walls surrounding Korail make it impossible for fire trucks to enter in case of an emergency, and similarly, obstruct people from leaving.

At the start of this article I raised the question what place the urban poor have within the landscape of Dhaka. My brief case-study portrays Korail slum as a place that is characterized by a certain frailty of structures and where the risk of displacement is simmering beneath the surface of everyday life, either in the form of eviction or in the more subtle form of institutional neglect. Hackenbroch (2012) has introduced the term ‘spatial injustice’ to make sense of the ways in which poor people are excluded from the city’s landscape and its services. This exclusion, for example, manifests itself in the deliberate construction of the wall that separates Korail slum from the rest of the city and in the institutional unwillingness to view slums as sites for proper urban planning and development. These exclusionary politics are underpinned by the idea that poor people have no rightful claim to the city, as “elite perceptions remain focused on rural areas as the rightful home of the poor, and this is exacerbated by negative images of crime and squalor” (Banks et al. 2011).

However, despite popular opinion the poor actually are an indispensable part of city’s economy and landscape. For how would Dhaka function without the many day-laborers, rickshaw pullers and garment workers that live in slums? How would dustbins be emptied and drains be unclogged? Who would build the flats and houses for Dhaka’s ever increasing population? In fact, the landscape of the city would look completely different without the labor of the poor. It therefore seems to me that they have earned the right to a more permanent place within the city. Fortunately there is hope… For in February 2013 the inhabitants of Korail, after years of advocacy from the local NGO ‘Dushtha Shasthya Kendra’, got access to legal water supply. Let us hope that this gesture will be a forebode of further infrastructural progress in slums in Dhaka.

Summary of UNHCR Protection Manual

UNHCR has recently launched its online Protection Manual. The Protection Manual is organized by theme/subject. Under each heading, the documents are arranged in reverse chronological order and are accessible through a hyperlink. At the end of each subject heading, relevant related sources are listed, containing older guidance and documents which serve as background reading. Brief structure of the manual is as follows:

A. International Protection -

1.Refugee law instruments:- It contains all International instruments as well as Regional instruments Africa, North Africa and the Middle East, America, Asia, Europe, Council of Europe, Europe and European Union) on refugee protection.
2.UNHCR mandate and supervisory responsibility
3.Executive Committee Conclusions
4.General Assembly and Economic and Social Council Resolutions
5.UNHCR and Humanitarian Reform

B. Refugee Protection –

1.Inclusion (Article 1A(2)):- It contains instruments pertaining to Inclusion – general, Persecution, Agents of Persecution, Outside country of origin, Persons fleeing armed conflict and other situations of violence, Religious-based refugee claims, Membership of a particular social group, Gender-related persecution, Victims of trafficking, Child asylum claims, Sexual orientation and gender identity, Claims related to military service – Conscientious objection / Draft evasion / Desertion, Internal flight / relocation alternative, Safe countries of origin / Safe third countries / Safe first country of asylum / 'Secondary' or 'onward' movement and Family Unity and Derivative Refugee Status.
2.Cessation (Article 1C)
3.Exclusion:- It includes instruments and documents on Article 1D – Palestinian refugees, Article 1E and Article 1F.
4.Cancellation and revocation of refugee status
5.Regional Refugee Definitions and Complementary forms of protection
6.Country-related guidance:- It encompasses documents relating to Country-of-origin information and guidance, standards and procedures, Eligibility guidelines, Protection considerations, non-return advisories and other country-specific guidance, 'Country-of-asylum' guidance and Other 'country-related' guidance.
7.Procedures relating to Procedural safeguards / Due process rights, Credibility assessment / Use of country of origin information / Use of expert advice and evidence / Burden and standard of proof and UNHCR mandate procedures.
8.Effective remedies and access to courts
10.Entry (article 31) / Freedom of movement (Article 26) / (alternatives to) detention
11.Obligations of refugees
12.Expulsion and non-refoulement (Articles 32 and 33) which includes instruments on Expulsion (Article 32), Non-refoulement (Article 33(1)), Exceptions (Article 33(2)) and Diplomatic assurances.
14.Rights of asylum-seekers and refugees, containing documents relating to Employment / Self-reliance (Articles 17-19), Housing, Land and Property (Article 21), Education (Article 22), Social welfare / Public relief (Article 23-24), Health and Other rights / Levels of attachment.
15.Identity papers / Convention Travel Documents (Articles 27-28)

C. Asylum and Migration - It encompasses instruments and documents pertaining to Asylum – general, Access to territory and procedures, Asylum / Migration nexus, Smuggling / Trafficking, Asylum-seekers at sea / Maritime issues, Persons not in need of international protection / Return of persons who have had their asylum claim rejected / Re-admission agreements, National security / International crimes / Terrorism and Extraterritorial processing.

D. Protection in Mass Influx Situations / Emergency Response - Under this head documents related to Protection in mass influx situations / Emergency response – general, Temporary protection, Civilian character of asylum / Physical security of refugees, Armed conflict / Relations with the military, Camps and Registration are enlisted.

E. International Solidarity / Burden-sharing / Responsibility-sharing / Comprehensive Approach

F. Specific Protection Priorities - Instruments under this head are directed towards specific protection people viz-Women of Concern, Children of Concern, Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities, National, Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities and Indigenous Peoples, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex persons, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, HIV/AIDS, Age, Gender and Diversity, Protection of Civilians and Refugees in Urban Settings.

G. Durable Solutions - It includes documents on Durable Solutions – General (in relation to both refugees and IDPs), Return, Voluntary Repatriation and Reintegration, Resettlement, Local Integration in the Country of Asylum and Family Reunification.

H. Statelessness - It includes International legal instruments relating to nationality and statelessness, UNHCR's statelessness mandate, Guidance on specific aspects of UNHCR's mandate on identification, prevention, and reduction of statelessness and protection of stateless persons and Promotion of accession to the statelessness conventions

I. Internally Displaced Persons - It provides instruments on Normative framework on IDPs, Policy guidance regarding IDPs, Operational guidance regarding IDPs and Durable solutions for IDPs.

J. Global Protection Cluster - It includes documents on GPC guidance on IDPs, Protection Mainstreaming and Transformative Agenda

K. Displacement related to Climate Change or Natural Disasters

L. Human Rights

M. Other Operational Guidance - It contains instruments on Confidentiality and Data Protection, Commenting on National (Asylum) Legislation, Involvement with Courts, Relations with International Criminal Tribunals / ICC, Rule of Law, Communications and public information and Partnerships and high-level agreements

N. Miscellaneous

The Protection Manual is updated whenever a new protection policy or guidance document is published and can thus be relied upon to represent current state of UNHCR protection policies or guidance. The manual is extremely handy for being one-stop UNHCR's repository of protection policy and guidance documents.

Climate Refugee Problem: In Light of New IPCC Report

The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC) report which was finalized after the five day long conference on 30th March, 2014 deals with the impacts of climate change on human and natural systems, and possible methods of adaptation. The conference was held in Yokohama, Japan. The report says that climate change is a major threat to human security. This would disturb the ecosystem from equator to poles. It talks of “extreme weather events leading to breakdown of…critical services such as electricity, water supply and health and emergency services” and it sounds the alarm about “the breakdown of food systems, linked to warming”. The climate change also raises health concerns. Summer heat waves, sun burn, cold related deaths are all raising an alarming situation. Moreover this would in turn upset the public health and nutrition matter, distribution of access to food and water leading to a huge number of exoduses of migrants.

An important element that gets highlighted by the recent IPCC report is that there large scale human rights impact apprehended due to the climate change catastrophe. The very basic rights such as right to water, right to health, right to housing would be severely hampered. This would lead to large scale exodus of affected people from vulnerable countries. The vulnerability caused by the adverse impact of climate change is causing them to the migrate, both internally with in the country and cross-border migration. In this context, academic literature has tried to further and substantiate the terminology ‘climate refugees’. But even though there has been a persistent attempt from the academic community to highlight the necessity of separate classification of climate refugees, there is total lack of will from the policy makers side. This is reflected in the lack of any legal and policy initiative for the purpose of climate refugees.

The existing international legal framework for refugee protection is at present silent on the aspect of climate refugees. The Refugee Convention, 1951, which is drafted from the Euro-centric perspective and is a product of the post-world war times. Due to this fact the Refugee Convention, 1951 never emphasized upon the protection of refugees due to vulnerable environmental conditions. The Refugee Convention, 1951 scope was limited to that of persons who have fled their country in fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. Another major hurdle is the lack of consensus amongst states regarding the definition of climate refugee.

Conference of Parties, under the auspices of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is lacking focus on human rights impact and how causes vulnerability and leads to migration of the adversely affected population. The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its latest report helps us to recognize the alarming situation regarding impact of climate change. Time has come for the international community to take concrete steps in creation of an inclusive legal framework regarding the climate refugees. International community has to reach at a consensus regarding the legal instruments and institutional mechanism by which the climate refugees could be dealt with a right based approach.

Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees in India: Will they be Granted Citizenship?

Sri Lankan refugees came to India during the Sri Lankan Civil War which continued erratically from 1983 to 2009 and millions of them have still not found an asylum in their own country. According to a statistical report brought out by the Government of India, there are more than 100,000 ethnic Sri Lankan Tamils residing in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which accounts for a minimum figure of 68,000 living in 112 government-run camps and 32,000 outside the camps. For a period of almost 26 years these people have been residing in the Indian subcontinent, working as daily wage laborers with no hope of a bright peaceful future. International Organisations like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have tried to repatriate the refugees but the Tamil refugees have been reluctant to go back to their home country. They have cited various reasons for the same such as economic destitution, loss of habitation in their home land and gross human rights violation.

Many of the refugee children were born in India after their parents had migrated from Sri Lanka. Due to this rationale, they feel that they are more adept at the cultural, political and economic paradigms that exist in India. Inspite of having lived in India for almost half their lives these illegal migrants have not been granted citizenship and it seems that the Indian Government does not have the intention to confer such a right all together.

Advocate B Arulmozhimaran filed a PIL before the Madras High Court to declare S. 2(1)(b) of the Indian Citizenship Act as unconstitutional and accept the application for citizenship of the Tamil refugees. S. 2(1)(b) of the act disallows citizenship on the grounds that both parents are not citizens of India or that one of them is an illegal migrant. The petitioner argued that these people who had spent almost three decades of their lives in India could not be denied citizenship as it would violate their right to life as is guaranteed by Art. 21 of the Indian Constitution. They also contended that Article 11 of the Constitution does not prohibit any person from applying for citizenship and hence it was legally untenable to brand these refugees as illegal migrants and deny them Indian citizenship.

S Tamilarasan, counsel for the petitioner, contented that in the matter of Chakma refugees residing in Arunachal Pradesh, a petition was filed by the by National Human Rights commission and the Supreme Court had ruled in favour of citizenship for those 65,000 refugees, who were staying there for more than three decades. The rationale behind asking for citizenship for the Tamil refugees was the same. Nearly one lakh Sri Lankan refugees have been living in Tamil Nadu for the past three decades and denying them a social, cultural and economic identity would be inhuman to them and it would be violative of their fundamental right to live. In 2013, the first bench of the Supreme Court comprising the then acting Chief Justice R K Agrawal and Justice M. Sathyanarayanan ordered notices to central and state governments in the matter.

The Sri Lankan Tamil refugees have still not been granted with Indian citizenship and the judgement of the Supreme Court in the PIL is eagerly awaited. Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Mr. M. Karunanidhi supported the cause of the migrants stating that the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees would be granted Indian citizenship soon. His demand has been backed by spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

It has become a matter of utmost importance to provide these refugees with citizenship of India. Although the State government has been providing them with temporary housing facilities, free medical aid, education up to secondary level, cash benefits, subsidized food materials like rice, potatoes, clothing material and utensils for their survival, employability remains a problem in the absence of social integration and they face an uncertain future without the provision of citizenship. Providing de facto asylum without an intention to provide Indian citizenship - all the while suspending civil and political rights like right to property, right to free movement, right to voting, etc is an injustice for the Tamil refugee populations which have been stateless in Tamil Nadu since the 1980s.

Compiled by- Kruthika NS

Walter G. Craddock Paper Prize:

Dr. Lopita Nath, Associate Professor of History and Chair, University of the Incarnate Word, USA was awarded the Walter G. Craddock Paper Prize for best paper in European/Asian/Middle Eastern History by the Southwest Historical Association at the Annual Conference of the Southwest Social Science Association. The title of the paper was: Legality, Accountability and Responsibility: the Case of the Lhotshampa Refugees from Bhutan. Dr. Nath was a participant for the Eleventh Annual Orientation Course on Forced Migration which was organized by the Calcutta Research Group (CRG) in 2013. The awarded paper was prepared for CRG’s Orientation Programme.

Concerns Over Rejection of Asylum Applications in Japan:

Japan has rejected 99.9% of the asylum applications it considered in 2013, which has raised major concerns regarding the legitimacy and efficacy of Japan’s domestic refugee systems. Reports show that all Syrian asylum seekers were denied protection. However, the Immigration Bureau of the country has granted special permission to stay for humanitarian reasons to 151 of the 3777 requests.

Burma's Ethnic Persecution is State Policy:

Burma’s serious rise in ethnic violence has raised quite a large number of eyebrows. There have been serious accusations against the government for meting out abusive "population control" measures against Rohingya, a sect of Muslims, which demonstrates that state and central government authorities are responsible for denying Rohingya fundamental human rights by limiting their freedom of movement, marriage and childbirth, among other aspects of daily life, in northern Rakhine State. For instance, a 2005 order from local Rakhine State authorities, requires Rohingya "who have permission to marry" to "limit the number of children, in order to control the birth rate so that there is enough food and shelter." This order is imposed as a strict two-child limit which prohibits Rohingya from having children out of wedlock. As a result, fearful Rohingya women have fled the country and undergone illegal abortions that have resulted in severe injury and even death. This shows dangerous precedents for the future.

Proof of Registration Card Renewals held in Pakistan:

The most number of cards renewed has been in Lahore, which is a whopping 3494 out of 12409. The UNHCR has however, suggested a number of techniques for Pakistan to up its game. A suggestion to increase processing speed has been put forth, and the UNHCR review this on February 25, 2014. Similarly, a suggestion has been made to install more active Queue management, such as physical barriers.

20,000 Civilians in Danger of Starving to Death in Yarmouk Refugee Camp:

The United Nations has cautioned that more than 20,000 people are in unavoidable risk of starving to death in a Palestinian exile camp that has turned into a key battleground in the Syrian civil war. The approaching humane emergency in Yarmouk, on the edge of the Syrian capital, Damascus, was depicted as "beyond desperate" by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees. A delicate understanding between the warring factions to permit sustenance into the camp has broken down, and for 10 days no food parcel has been permitted through an administration barricade of the range, the scene of furious battling between the Syrian Army and dissidents. Chris Gunness, of UNRWA, has confirmed that there will be no further UN food assistance in the camp.

Until the flare-up of war in Syria, Yarmouk was a flourishing sanctuary for upwards of 250,000 Palestinian outcasts living nearby many Syrians. Anyway in December 2012 the range was invaded by radical gatherings, who were marked "terrorists" by President Bashar al-Assad's administration. People who couldn't escape ended up trapped as a Syrian armed force barrage lessened most structures to rubble. In July 2013, administration powers succeeded in forcing a tight bar around the locale. It wasn't until January not long from now that a delicate agreement was facilitated between all warring factions to permit food to be given as aid.

Mr. Gunness said even before the arrangement's breakdown, the circumstances had been basic for exactly 18,000 Palestinians and more than 2,000 Syrian citizens trapped in Yarmouk. He said: “Just about 100 food parcels allocates day were traversing; 700 were required.”