Refugees in India and Pakistan – A Comparison

India’s Treatment of Refugees Amid Pandemic

It is unfortunate that the vaccination process of India does not accommodate refugees. This is because they do not possess Aadhaar cards. Amro Koli, brother of Hemji Koli a Hindu migrant lost his life due to the pandemic outbreak. According to Hemji, Amro lost his life because he did not have access to the vaccine. Sadly, this was because of his refugee status. The Indian government has not yet granted Indian citizenship to refugees. He further stated that “We could have saved him, had he received the vaccine shot. He visited the nearest vaccine centre twice, but he was denied the vaccination as he couldn’t produce an Aadhaar card”.

In 2015, Hemji Koli along with his family members migrated from District Mirpur Khas Sindh through the Wagah border. They are residing in Jodhpur on a long-term visa and waiting to receive Indian citizenship. Amro Koli, who got covid on May 12, 2021, could not sustain the virus and passed away. Himeji Koli further said that “We migrated to India to find a safe shelter but even after six years, we are treated as outsiders and second-grade citizens. For instance, for refugees like us, there is no provision of vaccination, a lifesaving drug”.

A Grave Situation of Migrants in India 

Hemji is not alone in this situation. Almost 250 families of Pakistani Hindu migrants currently residing in Anganva has not received any vaccination. Mirkhan a 74-year-old Pakistani migrant living in Anganva settlement expressed his fear that “We are living in constant fear especially after we lost our people to Covid-19. The high-risk group consists of people my age. With the lack of vaccination, we fear to step out. In the last three months, we have placed multiple requests to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, there is no response.\”

Pakistani Hindus migrating to India for new life are returning to the homes with disappointment. The citizenship law introduced by the nationalist government of BJP was a prelude for these Hindus to migrate towards India. However, after few weeks they realized that India is not a Hindu paradise. Though India has banned caste-based discrimination in 1955, the old cognitive biases still prevail regarding the Dalits. This discrimination makes it harder for the migrants to get access to basic rights i.e., Education, jobs and homes.

Movement of Refugees after CAA

Following the legislation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the Hindu and Sikh refugees started to migrate towards India. However, many of those refugees are still waiting for nationality after the legislation. Hundreds of the families are residing in the border districts of Indian Punjab and Rajasthan. Despite from the Modi’s statement, that CAA will help the refugees residing in India without any legal status. No refugee has been facilitated by such legislation. Hence, the Hindus and Sikhs who have migrated to India are left in a brutal manner which is a grave concern for the humanity.

Comparison Between Pakistan and Indias Treatment of Refugees

Pakistan has a history of hosting refugees since its independence. In 1947, the newborn state hosted about 5.5 million refugees since its inception. Pakistan also focused on the resettlement and rehabilitation of these homeless people. Moreover, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, more than 400,000 Afghan refugees poured into Pakistan through the North Western belt. Pakistan took this migration as a challenge and tried to rehabilitate the Afghans who faced persecution through oppression.

On the other hand, the refugees in India are still facing a recognition challenge by the Indian government. A year after CAA, many of the Hindu and Sikh refugees in India are waiting for citizenship after the citizenship law has been passed. Similarly, the treatment of the Hindu refugees during covid also highlights the challenges faced by refugees in India. Hindu Singh Sodha who works for the rights of the migrants across the border said, “Neither they are protected under free food schemes, nor any state insurance/health schemes. They are left to fend for themselves in the most brutal manner, which is a matter of collective shame”.

Pakistan has neither signed 1951 convention of UN-related to the status of refuges nor the 1967 protocol. Furthermore, there is no legislation on a national level to manage the refugees, still it is hosting a large number of Afghan refugees on its territory. The Government of Pakistan manages the refugee’s matter in accordance with the national and humanitarian concern.

Similarly, during the last year, a Pakistani Hindu migrant family was Pakistan’ foreign office statement is as follow;

Pakistan and India\’s Vaccination Policies Regarding Refugees

Pakistan has made commendable efforts to vaccinate the Afghan refugees as a part of the Covid vaccination program. Afghan refugees residing in different parts of the country have started to register themselves. More than 10 refugees have been vaccinated in this swift campaign so far. The UNHCR has welcomed Pakistani efforts. Noriko Yoshida, a Pakistani representative has praised Pakistan’s solidarity towards the refugees. Moreover, the UNHCR has also provided 23 equipped ambulances to the Pakistani authorities. Hence, Pakistan is pursuing its solidarism with the Afghan refugees in the crisis situation.

India with a huge bulk of refugees has the vaccination policy only for its citizens. India’s liberalized vaccination policy has not been open to refugees and immigrants. Instead, it is open to its citizens only. Hence, the lack of Aadhar card means that the refugees will not get vaccinated. This crisis in India demonstrates the difficulties and glitches faced by the refugees. The UNHCR has restated the Indian global image that it advocates for the inclusion of refugees in vaccination programs. The lack of clarity in Indian policy will left many refugees unvaccinated. Hence, it will endanger the lives of many people residing in India.


These factors show that how a refugee is facing recognition challenges in India. The Indian mismanagement of Covid-19 is risking the lives of its citizens and as well as the refugees who have migrated to India. There is no provision of vaccination for the refugees which makes it evident that they are facing recognition challenges in India. On the other hand, Pakistan has made commendable efforts to facilitate the refugees in the best possible way. This gesture shows the solidarity Pakistan has with the refugees residing in its premises.


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