What does India not being a party to the protocol mean in the context of legal documents pertaining to refugee protection. A slightly detailed insight to this is most welcome.


  • some background unhcr.org/4cd96e919.pdf
    – James K
    Apr 11, 2021 at 7:30
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    @JamesK the fact the amount of Sri Lankan’s went down by 1000 in 2011 is slightly concerning, don’t know what to make of that Apr 11, 2021 at 13:16
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    Well the civil war in Sri Lanka ended in 2009, so there might have been some Sri Lankan refugees who may have felt that two years later, it was safe to return. But it is only 1000 out of 70000, and there would have been some natural deaths in that group. It doesn't appear significant to me
    – James K
    Apr 11, 2021 at 13:39

2 Answers 2


It means that India has not bound itself to the promises made in the treaty. It has not promised the international community that it will accept genuine refugees and treat them at least equally to its own citizens. When drafting and enacting border legislation and regulations, its lawmakers can't point to promises that India has made in this treaty. However, India has accepted refugees, even without signing the 1951 accord.

In practice, enforcement of the treaty has always been difficult. Many countries are in favour of protection of refugees in theory, but less willing to welcome asylum seekers in practice. Countries that have signed the treaty have repeatedly violated it.

So the principal effects are financial and political for the UNHCR. It doesn't have a foundation of a treaty that it can work within India. The lack of a treaty means that it doesn't have standing to work with local governments in India and this results in a lack of understanding of refugee issues among civil administrators and a lack of money for the UNHCR.


Around 150 countries have signed on to the 1951 Refugee Convention or the consequent 1967 protocol. India hasn't to either. Nor does it have a national refugee protection framework. However, it has accepted large numbers of refugees from bordering states - not least when India was partitioned on its independence.

Moreover, it has tended to accept the mandate of the UNHCR which is based in New Delhi, particularly with reference to Afghanistan and Myanmar. For example, UNHCR conducts refugee assessment statuses. This suggests that it unofficially accepts the Refugee Convention even though it hasn't officially signed onto it.

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