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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies URPP Asia and Europe (2006–2017)

India’s Refugee Policies

Responsible for the postdoc project: Dr. Anne-Sophie Bentz
Funded by: URPP Asia and Europe
Project duration: September 2011 – August 2012
Research Field: Norms and Social Order(s)


The project intends to examine India’s policy, or, more exactly, policies, towards a particular type of migrants, namely refugees. Following Partition, India has had to face growing refugee flows and is today, according to the World Refugee Survey 2009, home to 411,000 refugees, distributed as follows: Sri Lanka, 120,000, China, 110,000, Myanmar, 100,000, Afghanistan, 30,000, Bhutan, 25,000, Nepal, 25,000, and other, 1,000. Yet India has chosen to remain outside of the international system of refugee management as set up by the establishment of the UNHCR in 1950 and the adoption of the Geneva Convention of 1951, working nonetheless on an ad hoc basis with the UNHCR, as well as with the refugees’ country of origin. Exploring the tensions between international norms on refugees, originating in Europe after World War II and designed at first for a Western context, and India’s quite unique position in that respect, it is one of the purposes of this project to compare different ways (European and Western on the one hand, and Indian, if not Asian, on the other) of conceiving of the status of a refugee. It is hoped that new light will thus be shed on the evolution of India’s general attitude towards refugees, as well as on India’s changing motives for adopting and implementing distinct policies towards four refugee groups, i.e. the Sri Lankans, the Tibetans, the Burmese and the Afghans.

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