India forces change in West’s bid to club refugees, migrants

  • Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 17, 2016 23:44 IST
A Syrian refugee holds a child carrying a placard reading "we ask the EU governments to help us" as refugees and migrants including children who left the Chios registration camp protest on April 3, 2016 and camp out in the port of Chios. (AFP Photo)

India has led the charge of several developing countries at the United Nations (UN) against clubbing refugees with migrants.

The intervention by India, ably assisted by countries such as Mexico, Bangladesh and many others of the G-77 bloc that send migrants, has succeeded in ensuring the international community addresses the two as separate issues.

The process of consultations on the issue, ahead of the UN general assembly’s high-level meeting on September 19 to address movement of refugees and migrants, is likely to conclude on Monday.

During the consultations for a draft resolution for the summit, there was a concerted effort by the European countries to redefine refugees and mix them with migrants.

Faced with a large number of refugees from countries such as Syria, western nations have been advocating preventive diplomacy — efforts to diffuse the situations that result in refugees — which many developing countries termed ‘intrusive’ in nature.

Developing countries like India have argued that even if preventive measures are applied to the refugee crisis that is often triggered by political causes, the same yardstick cannot be used in the case of migration, where the reason is mostly economic.

“We cannot use preventive political measures to address migration because it is largely economics and demand-and-supply that govern such movement,” said an Indian official when questioned about the opposition of the developing nations to such a move.

Another Indian source said, “In the draft that was first initiated, there was an attempt to mix refugees and migrants and address them together, thereby adversely impacting countries like ours that have no refugee issues but have a large migrant diaspora.”

He added, “Our forthright intervention has made them agree and change this and address the two as largely separate issues.”

India has one of the largest migrant diasporas in the world.

Any effort to club refugees with migrants would adversely impact the country that is the top remittance recipient in the world. India had received over $69 billion in remittance last year.

Migrants are governed by national laws, whereas the international legal regime is applicable on refugees.

The West is mainly agitated due to a fundamental principle of the legal framework that guides refugees — non-refoulement. It is a principle of international law that forbids the rendering of a true victim of persecution to his or her persecutor. In other words, it means one cannot forcibly repatriate a refugee.

Several western countries see the need to change this and want migrants to be equated with refugees as both end up staying in another country.

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