CAA has made 6 lakh refugees forever stateless, says rights group

‘They are defined as illegal immigrants, shall remain liable for deportation’

Published - March 19, 2020 02:11 am IST - GUWAHATI

A New Delhi-based rights group has said that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 has made about 6,00,000 refugees in India forever stateless and vulnerable to refoulement.

The CAA prescribes citizenship for six non-Muslim communities which took refuge in India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan till 2014.

The 6,00,000 refugees who stand excluded from the Act comprise 3,04,269 Sri Lankan Tamils, 1,08,005 Tibetans, some 1,00,000 Chins from Myanmar, 40,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar and 39,619 others recognised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the National Campaign Against Torture (NCAT) said on Wednesday.

“As any person who entered India without valid documents or overstayed after May 30, 2003, are defined as illegal immigrants under the Citizenship Act of 2003, they and their descendants are ineligible for Indian citizenship, and shall remain forever stateless and remain liable for deportation,” NCAT coordinator Suhas Chakma said.

He said this in reference to the Centre’s August 2010 statement in the Rajya Sabha regarding Tibetan refugees. “As the Union of India has no intention to repatriate any refugee except the Rohingyas, the Tibetan and Tamil refugees are destined to stay in India, forever, as stateless while the Chin refugees have mostly been assimilated in Mizoram,” Mr. Chakma said.

‘Refugees as pawns’

The NCAT claimed the Centre was using “false narratives” – as in the case of Baldev Kumar, a former lawmaker from Pakistan who took refuge in India in September 2019 – to defend the constitutionality of the CAA on “legally unsustainable grounds”.

“The provisions of the Citizenship Act cited in the case of asylum-seekers like Baldev Kumar prohibit the grant of Indian citizenship to an illegal migrant. Every persecuted religious minority from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan has neither come nor will come as a legal migrant, thereby negating the need for the CAA,” Mr. Chakma said. “The CAA has therefore been enacted for mala fide purposes,” he added.

The NCAT coordinator further said that the classification of persecuted refugees based on geopolitical considerations was illegal, inhumane and immoral and cannot be justified in the eyes of the law.

He asked the Centre to stop using “refugees as pawns” for its foreign policy, implement the apex court’s judgments on granting citizenship to Chakma and Hajong communities pending since 1996, and take measures to naturalise the identified 6 lakh refugees instead of pursuing the CAA for unidentified beneficiaries.

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