India is a country that was born in the midst of one of the largest refugees flows in history and today, still sees mixed migration flows. Refugees, economic migrants and others cross borders everyday, in thousands. The challenge for Government and UNHCR is to ensure that the rights of refugees and asylum seekers remain protected. Working closely with the Government of India, UNHCR strives to do this effectively.

India has a long tradition of receiving refugees that goes back centuries. In more recent times, the two largest groups of refugees in India, around 200, 000 Sri Lankan Tamils and Tibetans, are directly being assisted by the Government of India. UNHCR's urban operation is based in New Delhi with a smaller presence in Chennai that helps Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu voluntarily repatriate back to Sri Lanka.

In the absence of a national legal framework for refugees, UNHCR conducts refugee status determination under its mandate for asylum seekers who approach the Office. The two largest groups of refugees recognized by UNHCR are Afghans and Myanmar nationals, but people from countries as diverse as Somalia and Iraq have also sought help from the Office.

Many refugees can now apply for long term visas (LTVs) issued by the Government of India, based on UNHCR documentation. This includes the right to work in the private sector and access to education facilities in India.

In India, UNHCR also works with several NGOs: Bosco, the Socio Legal Information Centre, the Gandhi National Memorial Society, the Confederation of Voluntary Agencies and Development And Justice Initiative (DAJI). They play an essential role in the protection of refugees and asylum seekers.


UNHCR together with its partners and civil society provides a range of services to support refugees and asylum-seekers in health, education, legal counseling, vocational skills and livelihoods.

UNHCR places great emphasis on every child's right to primary education and access to health care for all people of concern as a basic human right.

In New Delhi, the Socio-Legal Information Centre provides legal assistance to protect persons under UNHCR's mandate. Bosco facilitates access to government health care and education services and offers language classes, counseling and support for livelihood activities including vocational training. Bosco works very closely with refugee youth.


Facilitating long term solutions for refugees is part of UNHCR's global mandate. Solutions include the voluntary repatriation of refugees who wish to return to their country in safety and dignity, or where possible, the local integration of refugees who wish to remain in India and qualify for Indian citizenship under national laws. In addition, UNHCR submits the cases of a few refugees with particularly compelling protection needs for resettlement to a third country.


Reaching out to civil society and interested interlocutors - lawyers, academics, think-tanks, media, the UN peacekeeping centre, human rights bodies - is crucial for generating discussion and spreading awareness and understanding about refugee issues. UNHCR provides direct expertise to several legal forums and interested academic institutions. These activities include providing technical expertise to universities and research institutes. UNHCR is also involved in the post graduate diploma in refugee law given by the Indian Society of International Law in New Delhi.


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