• Lolita Delma Crasta

A Comment on the Protection Seekers

Updated: Oct 28

Hiranmayee Ramesh, Nyayshastram

Migrants and refugees are likely to have good general health, yet they can be in danger of falling debilitated on the move or while remaining in accepting nations because of helpless day to day environments or changes in their way of life[i]. I am going to further analyze the intensity of this threat in society.


Current Situation

An individual is forcibly displaced due to conflict or persecution every two seconds. 79.5 million people have been forced to move away from their homes[ii]. Nearly, 68.5 million people are displaced worldwide[iii].


The Report on the health of refugees and migrants in the WHO European Region, in partnership with the Italian National Institute for Health, Migration and Poverty (INMP) provides for the following information:[iv]

  1. The health of refugees and migrants is important.

  2. The migrant population is often overestimated.

  3. Migrants and refugees are usually healthy.

  4. Accessing health care facilities is difficult.

  5. Refugees and migrants have a lower risk for all forms of cancer, except cervical cancer. Cancer is generally found at the last stage.

  6. Breakdown in health systems in the country of origin can be a huge problem.

  7. Post-traumatic stress disorder among refugees and asylum seekers are more than the host population.

  8. Labour migrants constitute the largest group of migrants globally.

  9. Children without parents are the most vulnerable.

  10. Making the health systems refugee- and migrant-friendly should be the goal of every host nation.

The UNHCR, provides for health services in emergency situations for the refugees that include the following guidelines to be followed by :[v]

  • Priority should be given to primary health care services with preventive measures and provision of basic curative services. Promotion of proper nutrition requirements, adequate water supply, basic sanitation, reproductive and childcare, treatment of common diseases, immunization, and health education can be examples of such primary necessary care.

  • It is essential that the refugees participate in the process of development and provision of health care services.

  • Children under the age of five, women, and other vulnerable persons must be taken into account at all times.

  • Refugees should get equivalent access to services as any common man in the nation would.

  • Health awareness programmes should be sustainable and should be in compliance with internationally accepted health standards.

Right to Health Under Article 21 of the Constitution

Refugees from India are - Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka, Jumma refugees from Bangladesh, Tibetan refugees from Tibet and China, and other tribal refugees from Burma, Afghanistan and Iran. Even Sudan has a bulk of India's refugee population[vi]. India’s accommodative nature has attracted a huge number of refugees through all these years. However, the country does not have specific legislation in regard to protect the rights of such refugees. It follows the compulsory International policies to protect them later. As an Indian Citizen, we know the rights that we are guaranteed under Article 21 of our Constitution. Every individual’s life and personal liberty is assured under this provision[vii]. The Supreme Court of India has consistently held that Article 21 of the Indian Constitution applies to all irrespective of the fact whether they are citizens of India or aliens. The various High Courts in India have also adopted the rules of natural justice to such issues relating to refugee, along with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to protect the refugees.


In Louis De Raedt v. Union of India[viii], the Supreme Court laid down that the fundamental rights of the foreigner is confined to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. However, a foreigner does not have the right to reside and settle in India, as stated in Article 19 (1) (e) of the Constitution. Relying on this judgment the Madras High Court in David John Hopkins v. Union of India[ix], held that foreign nationals do not have any fundamental right for the grant of citizenship of India. The Government of India has the power under the Citizenship Act, 1955, to refuse citizenship, without any reason. A foreign national cannot claim equal rights under Article 14 with that of an Indian national. A foreigner in India can enjoy the rights under Article 21 in two ways:

  1. They are equally entitled to the right against deprivation of life or bodily integrity and dignity[x].

  2. To a certain extent, the right against executive action, sans procedural due process, accrues to them[xi].

Risks that need to be addressed

Vietnamese refugees were once settled in Singapore, after which the country declared that they don’t have a place for refugees, anymore, due to its small size[xii]. European countries often overestimate the number of migrants[xiii]. Refugees who cross international borders often lack the knowledge of health care facilities provided to them. This can arise due to various linguistic barriers according to the World Health Organization.


Some of the risks recognized by the UNHCR[xiv] are listed down,

  1. The main causes of death and diseases in emergency situations are usually prevented with a vaccine. However, these diseases are communicable in nature.

  2. Health emergencies occur to a reproductive woman.

  3. Gender-based violence can be very prevalent. Children and women are the most affected.

  4. When people move from one place to another, it is often associated with armed conflict, resulting in mass casualties and injuries.

  5. Refugee populations can be stigmatized. For instance, if they are taking away resources from nationals or bring in disease.

  6. When a large-scale population migrates to a place, essential requirements needed by the entire population may be under threat.

  7. The relationship between the host population and the refuge population can have the barrier of accessing health care services or of the quality & cost of services.

  8. The refugees may not have access to trustable security services.

Conclusion

The Right to Health is a basic Human Right. Every individual, be it a refugee or not, has that necessity to claim the right to his own health. We are well aware of the fact that one of the main reasons for which an individual may migrate from one place to another is in search of work that he is not provided within his own country[xv]. This fact makes it obvious that these refugees contribute excessively for the development of both their native country and host country. Thus, protecting their health is equally important to protect the health of other nationals. Due to the pandemic situation, the refugees are suffering even more since there is a lack of resources for the entire world.


[i] World Health Organisation, available at https://www.euro.who.int/en/publications/abstracts/report-on-the-health-of-refugees-and-migrants-in-the-who-european-region-no-public-health-without-refugee-and-migrant-health-2018, last seen on 26.08.20. [ii] UNHCR, available at https://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html, last seen on 26.08.20. 45.7 million people move within their country, 26 million people are crossing borders as refugees to escape war and persecution. [iii] Ibid. [iv] 10 things to know about refugees and migrants, World Health Organization, available at https://www.euro.who.int/en/publications/abstracts/report-on-the-health-of-refugees-and-migrants-in-the-who-european-region-no-public-health-without-refugee-and-migrant-health-2018, last seen on 26.08.20.. [v] UNHCR on refugees, UNHCR, available at https://www.unhcr.org/about-us/background/509a836e9/protecting-refugees-role-unhcr.html, last seen on 26.08.20. [vi] Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, available at http://www.ipcs.org., last seen on 02.09.20. [vii] Article 21, Constitution of India. [viii] Louis De Raedt v. Union of India, AIR 1991 SC 1886. [ix] David John Hopkins v. Union of India, AIR 1997 Mad. 366. [x] Louis De Raedt (1991) 3 SCC 554 at P. 13; Chandrima Das 2000, 2 SCC 465 at P. 28, 32 and 34; Anwar (1971) 3 SCC 104 at p. 4; and NHRC 1996, 1 SCC 742 at p. 20. [xi] P. Mohammed Khan 1978, 1 1 APWR 208. [xii] Singapore can’t accept refugees, The Straits Times, available at https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singapore-cant-accept-refugees-mha, last seen on 26.08.20.

[xiii] Supra i [NOTE: Here i refers to the footnote where the organization was first mentioned]. [xiv] Health in camps, UNHCR, available at https://emergency.unhcr.org/entry/54565/health-in-camps, last seen on 26.08.20. [xv] Supra i [NOTE: Here i refers to the footnote where the organization was first mentioned].

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