Thursday, 10 September 2015

Europe Asylum (Migrant) Crisis and Refugees in India

Image of lifeless body of toddler washed ashore on a Turkish Beach. The child is believed to be one of least 12 Syrians trying to reach Greece who died when their boats sank. This is part of the horrors faced by tens of thousands of people fleeing from war and conflict.
Source: Reuters

What is happening?

 
    What is the problem?
    • As Europeans reeled once again at human cost of the biggest movement of people since World War II, France, Italy and Germany urged a rethink of European asylum rules to allow for a fairer distribution of migrants throughout the 28-member bloc. The call came as tensions soared between European states over how to tackle the huge influx.
    • In Britain, where Prime Minister David Cameron's government has accepted a lower number of asylum seekers in proportion to its population than most other EU countries, a flurry of petitions have sprung up demanding change.
      • The government is obliged to respond if a petition has over 10,000 signatures, and if it reaches 100,000, the issue will be considered for debate in parliament.
    • Meanwhile, angry migrants continued protesting at Budapest's main international station a day after police blocked them from boarding trains to Austria and Germany, with the numbers outside Keleti station swelling to 2,000 on Wednesday evening.
    • It is a humanitarian emergency that has been months in the making, exacerbated by the EU’s failure to mount any sort of effective collective response. 
    • Just as events this summer undermined the notion of Europe as a cohesive economic unit, the faltering, unilateral and often selfish actions of European nations have struck at the core of the idea of the Union, and its defining values.
    • Where Germany, Italy and Sweden have accepted sizeable numbers of asylum  applicants, others, especially the Eastern European nations, have supplemented  meagre asylum acceptance rates by erecting razor-wire fences and deploying the police. 
    • Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany this week rightly called for Europe to evolve a strategy to manage the crisis practically, humanely — and together. 
    • This is an opportunity for Europe to demonstrate leadership, and affirm its commitment to its founding values.
    • By contrast, there is the laudable spirit shown by organisations, groups that have conducted perilous rescue operations on the high seas, and provided refugees shelter and timely support despite their constrained capabilities and remit. 
    • The EU and Britain must adopt a more humane and responsible asylum and immigration policy on the refugee crisis — or be consumed by it.
    India and Refugees
    • India hosts more than two lakh refugees and is at the centre of refugee movements in the South Asian region. 
    • The Indian refugee-protection framework has traditionally been based on a combination of executive policies and judicial pronouncements. 
    • India has also signed a number of international conventions that have a bearing on its obligations to refugees. 
    • Further, it has extended protection under a body of complementary law and practice to support refugees. For instance, the Right to Education Act applies to all children in India, including refugees. Similarly, refugees can benefit from government health services, justice systems, etc. 
    • As a member of the UNHCR executive committee, India has repeatedly stated its commitment to protecting refugees. 
    • It has also emphasised the need for burden-sharing and cooperation with regard to refugee crises owing to conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan. 
    • But India has been reluctant to sign the 1951 Refugee Convention or adopt a national asylum law because it fears that this would encourage more refugee inflow
      • Though the region is collectively host to more than two million refugees, none of the South Asian countries are signatories to the Refugee Convention, nor do they have domestic asylum frameworks. While India has been a generous host to several persecuted communities and does more than many signatory countries, it needs a coherent domestic asylum policy and to take the lead in devising strategies and approaches for asylum management. 
      • In the past, attempts have been made to devise a regional asylum law. 
        • In 1994, the UNHCR initiated a regional consultation in South Asia with this objective. Subsequently, a model asylum law was adopted at the 1997 Dhaka regional consultation. 
        • India constituted an eminent persons’ group under former Chief Justice of India P.N. Bhagwati, which developed a draft legislation to suit the country’s specific requirements. While this was presented to the Centre in 2000, no further steps were taken to enact it. 
    • It is time to resurrect these attempts at devising a legal framework, at both the domestic and regional levels. As the only stable democracy in South Asia and an emerging power with aspirations to permanent membership of the UN Security Council, it is incumbent on the Indian government to lead by example and reinforce our historic commitment to refugee protection.

    SIMPLY PUT :

    DIMENSIONS:
    According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 3,50,000 migrants and refugees have tried to cross the Mediterranean sea into Europe. Almost 2,600 refugees have died in the Mediterranean Sea from January to August 2015 alone.

    PUSH FACTORS:
    Most of them are from West Asia, particularly from the war-ravaged countries of Syria, Iraq and Libya; many are also from the disturbed areas of Africa. According to the the IOM statistics, a substantial number of refugees are also from Afghanistan and Pakistan, moving for reasons similar to their West Asian counterparts — Afghanistan is caught in an unending civil conflict and Pakistan’s socio-economic condition is continuously deteriorating. This is what makes people flee their own countries to other parts of the world, in search of peace, employment and stability.

    PULL FACTORS(Europe):
    • economically prosperous, 
    • socially secure and 
    • has better immigration laws.  
    Good analysis on: How Western countries led to such situation in MENA region - http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-roots-of-europes-refugee-crisis/article7648732.ece

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