Refugee Rights

Despite the fact that India is a host to diverse groups of refugees, the country has no specific laws or cohesive policy for refugees. India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention nor to its 1967 Protocol on the Status of Refugees. Therefore, the protection of refugees is confined to ad-hoc measures taken by the government of India, leaving refugees with little protection for their civil and political rights and virtually no legal provisions for their safety and welfare.

Against this backdrop, the Refugee Rights Initiative at HRLN works for the protection of the rights of refugees and to improve their situation in India with a mission to assist asylum seekers, refugees and other displaced populations in realizing their basic human rights and accessing the justice system.

What HRLN Does


HRLN’s Refugee Rights Initiative (RRI) team assists refugees and asylum seekers by way of counselling and legal aid. The RRI works as an implementing partner of the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR. HRLN also facilitates applications for Indian citizenship on behalf of eligible refugees who are interested in applying for naturalization in India. We litigate for safe asylum and protection of human rights of refugees by providing free legal aid to refugees and asylum seekers, including support in cases to secure residence permits, to stop refoulement, for refugees arrested or facing deportation, for the registration of complaints by the refugees at police stations, and for refugees in crisis situations. It represents women refugees in matrimonial cases, including for the custody of children. It also make interventions on behalf of refugees before various administrative bodies.

The team has worked with people from multiple nationalities, including but not limited to refugees from Tibet, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Burma, Laos, Liberia, Kazakhstan, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, China, and Afghanistan.

These activities are combined with efforts to identify durable solutions for the mandate refugees, which include voluntary repatriation, naturalization, and third-country resettlement. The initiative undertakes crisis-response missions, investigation, monitoring, and fact-finding visits, such as a mission undertaken in Mizoram to uncover the mass-migration of Chin refugees from Myanmar. Through its interventions and consultations, it works to bridge the gap between displaced communities and policy makers. It conducts training programmes for the general public, legal practitioners, law students, activists, social workers, and the police to sensitize them on how to use the existing laws for refugee protection.

Main Concerns


- Naturalization
- Renewal of refugee certificates
- Registration of new-arrival refugees
- Residence permits
- Asylum applications
- Deportations
- Mass migrations
- Ethnic/racial discrimination against refugees


HRLN Impact


Litigation: In February 2017, HRLN has filed an impleadment application in the PIL filed by an advocate Hunar Gutpa, at the High Court of Jammu seeking eviction of illegal immigrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh residing in the state. In this regard, HRLN identified and took consent from 23 individuals from different shanties In Jammu for making them applicants in the PIL, as they are the directly affected party.

Detention Work:
HRLN in West Bengal is presently handling 63 Rohingya individual cases, the number of which are increasing. These Rohingyas were arbitrarily arrested by border police at the Indo-Bangladesh border and charged under 14 Foreigners Act for illegally entering the country. HRLN in West Bengal had successfully secured the release of Rohingyas from prison including children from homes in the past. In 2017, HRLN has secured the release of 5 Rohingya refugees.

Stopping deportation:
HRLN in 2017 at Delhi has filed an SLP in the Supreme Court challenging the deportation order of refugees. A similar case was also filed at the High Court in Delhi where deportation threat was averted. The Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) was instructed to issue residential permit to the refugee.

Rescue Operation:
HRLN in 2015 conducted a rescue operation at Mathura where 25 Rohingya were released from bonded labour. These Rohingyas ended up working in bonded labour situation after they were lured and trafficked to India by an agent and kept them under controlled confinement and forced labour.

Trainings and fact findings:
HRLN has conducted workshops, and training and awareness sessions for jail welfare officers, lawyers, police, like-minded NGOs on refugee protection and its principles. It also conducts situational analysis on refugee population and related issues.

Free Legal Aid: HRLN provides free legal assistance in general refugee protection cases. This includes protection of women and children from sexual violence.
COVID Relief for Rohingya Refugees in Delhi

Fazal Abdali v. Government of NCT of Delhi W.P.(c) 3063 of 2020
Disposed Of

Training on Refugee Rights and Discussion on the Issue of Migration in the Context of Northeast India

The Northeastern states of India have recently witnessed an upsurge of cases of Rohingyas. The Rohingyas claim to be ref ...read more

Police Sensitisation and Trainings

HRLN regularly conducts training for Police Officers and various members of law enforcement agencies in order to make th ...read more

Legal Awareness on Trafficking, Human SMuggling, Gender Based Violence, Child Labour, Child Marriage and Education - Hyderabad

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Fact Finding Report - Situation Analysis of Rohingyas in Mewat, Haryana

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Assessment Report of Rohingyas in Jammu

A team of SLIC visited the Rohingya settlement in Jammu on 16 and 17 September 2015 to assess the condition of the commu ...read more

Assessment Report of Rohinyas in Faridabad

A team of SLIC visited the Rohingya settlement area in sector 82, Faridabad, Haryana on 16 July 2015. This settlement is ...read more

Fact Finding Report on Rohingya Refugees

In light of the orders passed by the court a team of lawyers and social activists had gone to various Rohingya Settlemen ...read more

Letter to Colin Gonsalves from Badol farazi; a Bangladeshi citizen, who was trapped in an Indian jail for 10 years

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HRLN conducts interactive session on legal rights of Tibetans living in India

January 20, 2018 HRLN and the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) organised a one-day interactive s ...read more

Minors granted refugee status by UNHCR

State of Assam Vs. Musst. Fatema Begum & Musst Sakutana; GR Case No. 5687/2015; Juvenile Justice Board, Kamrup(M)

Workshop on Prevention and Response to Detention of Asylum seekers, Refugees and Stateless Person

India is a host to diverse groups of refugees from the very beginning but India is not a signatory to the 1951 Conventio ...read more

Lawyers Training on Legal Protection for Asylum Seekers and Refugees in India

Despite the fact that India is a host to diverse groups of refugees, India is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention Rel ...read more

One lakh Chakmas and Hajong tribals from Bangladesh conferred Indian citizenship rights

Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh & Others Vs. State of Arunachal Pradesh & Others[WP (C) No. 510 of 2007]

Legal Training on The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO Act), Delhi

Socio- Legal Information Centre conducted training on the Protection of Children from Sexual offences (POCSO Act) on 12t ...read more

Awareness Session on SGBV Legal Reporting Procedure and GBV at workplace for Youth Club Leaders of BOSCO, New Delhi

On 6 May 2016, SLIC presented a session on “SGBV legal reporting procedure and GBV at workplace for Youth Club Leaders ...read more

Workshop on Prevention and Response to Detention of Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Stateless Persons

Despite the fact that India is a host to diverse groups of refugees, India is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention Rel ...read more

Consultation with Lawyers on Prevention and Response to Detention of Refugees and Asylum Seekers, Kolkata

Despite the fact that India is a host to diverse groups of refugees, India is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention Rel ...read more

Shri Irsayam & Others Vs Union of India & Others

This case upholds the right of 7 Indonesian sailors to be repatriated to their country of origin where no grounds exist ...read more