“No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” –  Warsan Shire[1]

The world has seen an influx in the rate of migrants and Refugees in recent times. People all over the world see refugees and migrants as enemies to their state because of the lack of knowledge they have about them. Refugees and migrants are always confused with each other or illegal migrants by everyone but there is a difference in all of them. Even the government and judiciary recognizes these differences and gives them their rights accordingly.

Refugees are those people who get their recognition by UNHCR after going through the Refugee Status Determination process. This process sees whether a person falls into the definition of the 1951 convention or not. As per Article 1(A)(2) of the 1951 convention,” As a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951 and owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former a habitual residence as a result of such events is unable or, owing to such fear is unwilling to return to it.”[2]

Migrants are people who move from one place to another in search of a better standard of living.

The major difference between these two subgroups is that a person cannot be called a Refugee unless he crosses international borders and the reason for his crossing was fear of prosecution due to race, religion, nationality, or being a member of a particular social group or political group whereas migrants never cross international borders. Migrants move within the country in hope of finding a better standard of living and the main clause of “fear of prosecution” is missing when it comes to migrants.

In India, the migrant subgroup is prioritized and refugees are marginalized because India isn’t party to the 1951 Refugee convention. India does not have any specific law for refugees but in the absence of any specific Refugee law, all the Human rights and The Criminal Procedure Act, The Evidence Act, and The Indian Penal Code apply to the Refugees. The fact that India isn’t party to the 1951 Refugee Convention results in various hardships and exploitation of these people because without specific refugee law, people living in refugee camps are often exploited and deprived of their basic human rights and hence they are marginalized. Refugees in India cannot buy properties or work legally because they aren’t a citizen of India. The condition of living in a temporary make to do tents is horrible. These refugee camps lack basic sanitary service, clean water, and clear breathable grounds, and refugees are often ill-treated by the locals because locals often fail to understand the mental trauma these people have been through and why they chose to leave their own country and move to another. Refugees are often confused with illegal migrants because of the lack of knowledge and this is one of the major reasons why they are marginalized in India.

Migrant workers also do not have it easy for them but their condition is better than Refugees in India because of the Migrant Workmen Act, 1979, and Labour rights and standards.

The ruling party in India has recently launched an employment scheme with an outlay of more than 50,000 crores for migrant workers. Garib Kalyan Rozgar Yojna, Jal Jivan Mission, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, and Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojanaare some of the schemes currently which is providing employment to migrant workers who returned to their homes during the lockdown and are facing unemployment. There are various legislative actions and judicial precedent which enables migrant’s rights and make sure they are not exploited but in case of refugees, they are the marginalized subgroups who enjoy neither the support of legislation nor of the judiciary because India is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Refugees are perceived in a wrong way by the majority. They are considered to be illegal migrants but in reality, the grounds for getting the Refugee status are very difficult. These people need kindness. Refugees need the opportunity to learn so they could make a life for themselves.

“Not only do refugees leave their homes, but they also lose their lifestyles and their livelihoods. Some people talk about safety and borders and things, but we also have to remember that people who have become refugees … we define them as refugees and define them in numbers, but we often forget that in their own countries, they were teachers, doctors, and engineers,” – Malala Yousafzai

We need to break the cultural and communication barrier and help people learn more about the Refugees so they could be treated like Humans and given the respect that they deserve.

[1] https://www.globalgiving.org/learn/12-shareable-world-refugee-day-quotes/

[2] https://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10

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