Laws influencing the lives of refugees and asylum seekers 

Topic: – Laws influencing the lives of refugees and asylum seekers 


There are many reasons one may leave their country, like to escape dangerous situations that may put their existence in a difficult situation. For example, people leave due to extreme poverty, war, violence, hunger, or even their sexual or gender orientation. Asylum seekers have existed for many decades. In the early days, our ancestors used to migrate to find food, shelter, and other essential resources. Around AD 600, the right to seek asylum in a holy place or a church was codified as law by King Ethelbert of Kent. Many such laws relating to refugees and asylum seekers were rising around Europe during the medieval period. Though these are not the only circumstances under which one might leave their home behind to build a new life in another country, it could also be because of their career, personal growth, education, and other such opportunities that help them lead a better and improved life elsewhere. And such people are called refugees, asylum seekers, or migrants.

Now, for legal purposes, let us understand a bit more about what exactly these terms mean.

  • Refugee: A refugee is a person who fled their nation fearing prosecution or serious human rights violations. When the risk to their life and continued existence in that country becomes questionable, they are left with no other option but to leave their home, their country, and their family and relatives behind in order to settle in the new country.
  • Asylum seeker: an asylum seeker is the person who leaves their country behind, fearing persecution or serious human rights violations, and settles in another country. But the thing to be noted is that these people are not legally recognized as refugees and are waiting for asylum seekers. Seeking asylum is a human right that every person has, and it is the duty of countries to provide asylum when the person is in a situation that is mortally dangerous to their lives.
  • Migrant: people who leave their home, family, and relatives to go and settle in another country in order to improve their living standards are called migrants. This migration can be due to their career, education, or simply better opportunities to lead a comfortable lifestyle.

Situation in India

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) maintains statistics regarding asylum seekers and refugees and also overlooks the various asylum-seeking laws that are made in South Asia while also covering other countries like India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. India has been home to refugees for centuries, despite not being a signatory to the 1952 Refugee Convention. Whenever faced with a humanitarian situation, we as a country have always ensured that we offer help, as any democratic republican nation would. More than 46,000 refugees and asylum-seekers are registered with UNHCR India as of the UNHCR 2022 report. But this still does not negate the fact that India does not have national asylum legislation; UNHCR conducts registration of refugees and also gives Refugee Status Determination (RSD).

In our country, foreigners generally deal with the following laws:

  • The Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939
  • The Foreigners Act, 1946
  • The Foreigners Order, 1948

India is continuously focusing on the various people who ask for amnesty for the country by attempting to provide them with refugee status, proper medical conditions in hospitals, and the betterment of women, children, and the elderly. Survivors of sexual and gender-based violence

The provisions of the Indian Constitution apply to refugees while they are in India. The most important article amongst these provisions is Article 21, which deals with the right to life and personal liberty; it applies to everyone, irrespective of whether they are citizens of India.

Treatment given to the asylum people was divided into three heads, namely:

  • National Treatment of the Refugees: This means that the refugees and asylum seekers are treated fairly and similarly to any Indian citizens. Nation-wide treatment refers to the unbiased use of constitutional provisions by both the citizens of the country and the refugees. Rights such as equal protection of the law under Article 14, religious freedom under Article 25, the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21, the right to social security, and educational rights are guaranteed in Part III of the Indian Constitution for all the citizens of the country without bias or unfair treatment, meaning that even the refugees who are amnesty seekers are also provided the same privileges as any normal citizen of the country.
  • Treatment that is accorded to foreigners in the country: these are rights given to the foreigners who are asylum seekers so that they can lead a safe and secure life in our country despite this not being their home country. Rights such as the right to employment or profession under Article 17, freedom of residence and movement under Article 26, right to housing under Article 21, right to form associations under Article 15, and right to property under Article 13 of the 1951 Refugee Convention are some privileges that are granted to the people of the country as well as the refugees in order to secure their lives in the nation both physically and financially. These rights help the refugees or foreigners seek a means of employment in order to support themselves, so as not to make them helpless in the new country that they have sought asylum in.
  • Special Treatment: These are certain privileges that allow these refugees to enter the country even in the absence of proper identity and travel documents. This is only a privilege that is used in dire situations, like when the person is fleeing a war-torn country, etc.

In short, though India does not have specific legislation for laws relating to refugees and asylum seekers, we have not completely left them unprotected and defenseless in dire situations. However, India does have the Refugee and Asylum (Protection) Bill of 2009, which gives the basic idea that a country cannot send a person back to their country of origin if they will face endangerment upon return. But the main legislation that supports refugees and asylum is the Foreigners Act of 1946. And there are a few other acts and bills that act as an accessory to protect refugees and asylum seekers. Like;

Laws influencing the lives of refugees and asylum seekers 
Laws influencing the lives of refugees and asylum seekers 
  • Citizenship Act, 1955
  • Extradition Act, 1962
  • Foreigners Act, 1946 are a few of the acts that are related to refugees and asylum seekers in India.


Author: kaaviya b soman, a 5th year BBA-LLB Student of RV Institute of Legal Studies

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *