Fifth Annual Research & Orientation Workshop
Global Protection of Migrants and Refugees

Kolkata, 16-21 November 2020

Module Note


Module A /  Module B /  Module C /  Module D /  Module E / Module F

Module A

Module A: Global Protection of Refugees and Migrants with Emphasis on Protection in the Time of a Pandemic

Coordinator: Nasreen Chowdhory, Assistant Professor, University of Delhi



Human mobility has been an organic phenomenon prevalent through various phases of history, from the ancient ages to the modern times. The discourse on migration underscores this significance of mobility across all population, at all ages. Irrespective of whether the migration is forced or voluntary, mobility is the primary facilitating factor that enables the migration of individuals. But the recent pandemic of COVID-19 has brought about a new politics of human mobility that has adversely impacted the dynamics of migration across the globe. As mobility and physical proximity are the key drivers in the spread of corona virus and thereby the pandemic itself, various governments throughout the globe have instituted restrictive policies such as complete or partial lock-downs, border closures, travel bans etc. These constraints on freedom of movement have precipitated an asymmetric impact on migrants, both in terms of livelihood and life. Many countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, and India had brought about migrant crackdowns under the pretext of containing the COVID spread situation. This is in clear violation of the 13th objective of Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM)that espouses to “prioritize non- custodial alternatives to detention”3 . The ramification of such restrictive measures is even worse for the forced migrants like refugees and stateless individuals whose protection is conditioned by their mobility. The paper attempts to make the observation that by curtailing or enabling the mobility of different segments of people without giving due regard to their specific vulnerabilities, the state is undertaking a performative act of providing protection to its population. Governance of the state during pandemic thus showcases the state performativity of protection that transmutes to the politics of mobility/immobility. This consequently reasserts the dichotomies of inclusion and exclusion- i.e. who can access protection and who is denied protection. It creates a hierarchy of inequality where migrants and refugees transmute to potentially disposable bodies while the citizen becomes the indispensable entity of body politic who is worth the protection that state has to offer. In the given context, this paper tries to examine the ways in which the pandemic has conjured a new politics of mobility/immobility that impacts migrants and refugees adversely. The paper also looks at how India in particular has implemented its domestic policies and laws during COVID, so as to curtail the protection of citizens, migrants and refugees.


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Module B


Module B: Migrants and the Epidemic: Gender, Race, and other Vulnerabilities

Coordinator: Samata Biswas, Assistant Professor , The Sanskrit College and University




From state leaders to popular media, from the anonymised voices that make public safety announcements on the road and over the telephone, the present Coronavirus pandemic seems to have given birth to one consensus: that that virus does not discriminate between young and old, rich and poor, or between genders. This pandemic has also seen vilification/ villainization of different groups of people, based upon their identities, their professions or their mobility. This module seeks to locate these villifications, instances of xenophobia and marginalisation historically and to enquire into the reasons for the same. It views the present moment as a bio-political one, seeking to explore the functioning of biopower in the government of populations and people, power that subjects life to precise controls and comprehensive regulations. It works together with repressive forms of power, It engages with the interconnection between migration and public health--the travel and trade in pathogens and people--and explores the new forms of power that now marginalises certain sections of the people, in the name of the people. In Will to Power Michel Foucault writes about the wars that are waged on behalf of the existence of everyone, now considered crucial for the defence of society. During the current pandemic, societies across the world have witnessed a redrawing of the boundaries between people who matter and who are dispensable, an increase in draconian measures of surveillance, incarceration, changing human bodies and controlling movements. This also explores the existing inequalities in our societies that have a direct effect upon the further disenfranchisement due to the pandemic.

In short, this module hopes to explore the politics of life under capitalism, the conditions of the new normal as it continues from the previous, unequal normal and the dis-agregated nature of the social in social distancing.


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Module C


Module C: Neoliberalism, Migrant Worker and the Burden of the Epidemic: Few Observations

Coordinator: Arup Kumar Sen, Associate Professor, Serampore College, & Iman Mitra, Assistant Professor, Shiv Nadar University.



In this module, we are looking into four interconnected themes that shape the discourses and practices of migrant labour under neoliberalism – the specificity of the neoliberal regime of labour, the dichotomy of formal and informal spaces of labour, the projected association between informality and migration and the impact of the ongoing pandemic on these understandings. We start with a brief history of neoliberalism both as an intellectual project and as a network of economic and political practices and institutions in order to see how a specific conceptualisation of labour informs the political imaginary, which leads to the creation of the dichotomy between the formal and informal spheres of production. We also talk about the historical trajectory through which various ‘global’ institutions, developmental policies and economic rationalities came to sustain this dichotomy to further the neoliberal agenda. We discuss the alternative understandings and critiques of this dichotomy as well and point out the possibilities of conflicts ensuing from the fragmented forms of labour in contemporary times. We attempt to show how an association between informality and migrant labour is made on the basis of certain characteristics. In the final segment of the lecture, we talk about the possibilities of rethinking the issues of migrant workers in the time of a global pandemic. Following some of the recent arguments made by Ranabir Samaddar, we ask if it is enough to talk about migration and labour in these difficult times only in terms of ‘plight and right’ and whether there is a need to reorient our concerns and discussions towards a politics of justice and collective responsibility. We end the lecture with a possibility of a ‘politics of return’ – turning to the concept of a caring state rather than a punitive state and a conjoined discourse of labour and life.

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Module D


Module D: Statelessness with Emphasis on De Facto Statelessness and the Rightlessness of Sections of Population

Coordinator: K.M. Parivelan, Associate Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai



Statelessness Module-Introductory Note


In a world of nation-states, it is ironical to see ‘stateless’ people. It is case of glaring ommissions or contradiction at international level where several millions are denied citizenship or nationality. South Asia is riddled with such tedious challenges of statelessness. Globally at present there are aound 80 million people displaced due to conflicts or due to situation of forced migration2. Statelessness is a profound violation of human rights of an individual and remains to be one of the most pressing humanitarian issues of the twenty-first century. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that (1) “Everyone has the right to a nationality" and that (2) “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality3." Despite this guarantee, people in all parts of the world face the prospect of living without the nationality/ citizenship and its foreseen rights hence, lacks the security and protection under the state that usually citizens takes for granted.

At the outset, it is very important to distinguish between ‘statelessness’ and ‘refugeehood’ in order to avoid its overlap and apparent confusion it may cause. Well stateless is the one without any nationality or citizenship by law4, where as the refugee is the one who is fleeing to another country due to ‘well founded fear of persecution’ 5 . South Asia is riddled with culture, history, colonial experience, migration, state succession, citizenship, birth registration, etc. with root causes of statelessness. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes clear, everyone has a right to a nationality. Without nationality, individuals face an existence characterised by insecurity and marginalisation. Stateless people are amongst the most vulnerable in the world, often denied enjoyment of rights such as equality before the law, the right to work, education or healthcare6. To use the access to justice (A2J) framework, every one needs justice, but there are several barriers and impediments. Stateless and Refugees are the most marginalised and vulnerable groups. The following International laws and conventions are relevant here:

• Convention on Status of Refugees, 1951 & 1967 Protocol

• Convention on Statelessness, 1954 & Reduction 1961

• UDHR- Articles-14 & 15: Right to seek Asylum & Non deprivation of nationality, respectively

• ICCPR 7 - Articles 1 & 27: Right to self determination & treatment of minorities

• ICESCR8- Article 2 (3) economic rights to non-nationals

• SDG9- Goal 16 talks about Promoting Just, Peaceful and Inclusive Societies

Article 1 of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (1954 Convention) defines a ‘stateless person’ as someone “not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law.” Statelessness arises in a variety of contexts. It occurs in migratory situations, for example, among some expatriates who lose or are deprived of their nationality without having acquired the nationality of a country of habitual residence. Most stateless persons, however, have never crossed borders and find themselves in their “own country”. Their predicament exists in situ, that is in the country of their long-term residence, in many cases the country of their birth. For these individuals, statelessness is often the result of problems in the framing and implementation of nationality laws10. The Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights approved on 10 December 1948 by the General Assembly of the United Nations have affirmed the principle that human beings shall enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms without discrimination. The 1954 Convention’s most significant contribution to international law is its definition of a “stateless person” as someone “who is not considered as a national by any State under operation of its law.” For those who qualify as stateless persons, the Convention provides important minimum standards of treatment. It requires that stateless persons have the same rights as citizens with respect to freedom of religion and education of their children. For a number of other rights, such as the right of association, the right to employment and to housing, it provides that stateless persons are to enjoy, at a minimum, the same treatment as other non-nationals.

To overcome the profound vulnerability that affects people who are stateless and to help resolve the practical problems they face in their everyday lives, the Convention upholds the right to freedom of movement for stateless persons lawfully on the territory, and requires States to provide them with identity papers and travel documents. The Convention also prohibits the expulsion of stateless persons who are lawfully on the territory of a State Party.

Because protection as a stateless person is not a substitute for possession of a nationality, the Convention requires that States facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of stateless persons. Like the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the 1954 Convention explicitly excludes individuals when there are serious reasons for considering that they have committed a crime against peace, a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a serious non- political crime.

Why is Nationality Important?

Recognition of nationality serves as a key to a host of other rights, such as education, health care, employment, and equality before the law, people without citizenship – those who are ‘stateless’ – are some of the most vulnerable in the world. That is why the inclusion of the right to nationality in Article 15 of the UDHR is pertinent component. UDHR as a whole, was motivated by the impulse to respond to the atrocities committed during the Second World War, among them mass denationalisations and huge population movements. Hundreds of thousands of Jews who survived the Nazi-perpetrated genocide fled their home countries, while millions of ethnic Germans were expelled from eastern European states, and millions of Poles, Ukrainians, Byelorussians and other minority populations of the Soviet Union either were forcibly expelled or fled for their safety during aftermath of Soviet disintegration.

Types of Statelessness

There are two types of statelessness: (i) De jure Stateless and (ii) De facto Stateless. The 1954 Convention establishes the universal definition of a “stateless person” in its Article 1(1). Persons who fall within the scope of Article 1(1) are sometimes referred to as “de jure” stateless persons even though that term is not used in the Convention itself. By contrast, reference is made in the Final Act of the 1961 Convention to “de facto” stateless persons and there is an implicit reference in the Final Act of the 1954 Convention. Unlike the term “stateless person” as defined in Article 1(1), the term de facto statelessness is not defined in any international instrument and there is no treaty regime specific to this category of persons (the reference in the Final Act of the 1961 Convention being limited and non-binding in nature). Care must be taken that those who qualify as “stateless persons” under Article 1(1) of the 1954 Convention are recognised as such and not mistakenly referred to as de facto stateless persons as otherwise they may fail to receive the protection guaranteed under the 1954 Convention11. There is not only a lack of systematic attention given to collecting reliable statistics but also a lack of consensus on whom to include when counting stateless people. There is general agreement that people who are de jure (legally) stateless – those who are not considered as nationals by any state under its laws – should be counted. However, there are many millions of people who have not been formally denied or deprived of nationality but who lack the ability to prove their nationality or, despite documentation, are denied access to many human rights that other citizens enjoy. These people may be de facto stateless – that is, stateless in practice, if not in law – or cannot rely on the state of which they are citizens for protection12.

Causes for Statelessness

It may result from various circumstances/ reasons. States may simply cease to exist while individuals fail to get citizenship in their successor states (as in the case of USSR and Yugoslavia). Political considerations may dictate changes in the way that citizenship laws are applied. An ethnic minority may be persecuted or being denied citizenship; or a group may live in frontier areas and frequently cross borders, causing states on both sides of the border to deny them citizenship as in the case of Bhils. There are individuals who become stateless due to personal circumstances, rather than persecution of a group to which they belong. Statelessness can arise from legal differences between countries, people renouncing one nationality without having acquired another or even, more simply, from failure to register the birth of a child. Added to this is a potential new category: small islands which, condemned by a changing climate to be swallowed by the sea, will see their entire populations become stateless. India’s neighbor, Maldives faces this challenge vis-à-vis climate change.

Two Types of Citizenship

Indeed, the two most commonly employed principles for granting citizenship operate at the moment of birth: in legal terminology jus soli and jus sanguinis, the ‘law of the soil’ and the ‘law of blood’ principles, respectively. One of the main reasons people are denied or deprived of nationality, and thus rendered stateless, is racial or ethnic discrimination.

Types of Statelessness in South Asia/ India

Despite advances in international law regarding the protection of stateless persons, India has been reluctant to incorporate them into national legislation. Thus, it is not surprising that there is a gap in the literature and data regarding statelessness in India13.

(i) Decolonisation led to partition of British India and creation of two sovereign States: India and Pakistan. This caused a large scale mass migration of approximately 12 to 14 million people who became displaced on either sides.

(ii) One such specific category as part of partition refugees are still called as ‘West Pakistan Refugees’ in Jammu and Kashmir, they are unable to get domicile status due to special laws followed in J &K vis-à-vis article 35A of Indian Constitution.

(iii) Decolonisation also affected the legal status of many Indian origin people in Sri Lanka during colonial times as plantation workers, and were rendered stateless upon Independence in 1948.

(iv) Amongst them a section of them are in India named as Uphill Country Tamils among the Sri Lankan Refugees in India since 1983.

(v) Currently in the State of Assam, several lakhs of people are beig rendered as stateless or ‘D’ voters (euphemism for doubtful voters) through the new census registration scrutiny. In addition the recent National Register Census has announced nearly 40 lakh people do not qualify to be citizens, in other words they are stateless people.

(vi) The Bhils are category of nomadic migratory tribal people trapped between borders of India and Pakistan

(vii) Chakmas and Hejongs also face discrimination and are being in the state of statelessness

(viii) People living in Indo- Bangladesh borders prior to Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) signed in 2015, lived in statelessness conditions and continue to face difficulties even after getting citizenship on papers.

(ix) Added to this is a potential new category of NRC and CAA related victims

While India has a long-standing history of hosting a large number of refugees and stateless persons, it does not legally recognise them through legal framework, which creates problems of integration.
Gender Discrimination

Gender discrimination is also a crucial factor in creating and perpetuating statelessness. Many countries around the world still do not have gender-neutral citizenship laws; in the worst cases, women lose their citizenship upon marriage to foreigners, and are unable to pass on their citizenship to their children. In Swaziland, the constitution adopted in 2005 stipulates that a child born after the constitution came into force is a citizen only if his or her father is a citizen. In Africa alone, over 20 countries still deny women the right to pass on nationality to a foreign spouse. In Nepal the women cannot transfer the citizenship to her children directly. There are some positive developments too, for example, in Botswana in the early 1990s a challenge to the constitutionality of the country’s Citizenship Act on the ground that it discriminated on the basis of gender led to the Act being amended. “Women and men should enjoy equal rights to transmit nationality to their children”, according to CEDAW, Article 9 and CRC, Articles 2 & 7

COVID Context

Now the ongoing COVID-19 has caused tremendous challenge to the migrant labour, loss of livelihoods and pressure on the existing stateless population. The covid pandemic has posed more questions on statelessness issue, which we can address and discuss as follows: (i) how new borders are formed due to pandemic; (ii) are the migrant labours are treated as stateless population?; (iii) How do we govern the stateless people in present covid context; and (iv) Are they kept in perpetual statelessness by the authorities to exploit their labour which is a disenfranchised labour (v) How does the inter-sectionality of gender, caste and religious fault lines operate/ function; (vi) How do we look at international movements like #IBelong campaign by UNHCR and finally (vii) How to map the stateless people and bring them under advocacy and solutions.


2 According to UNHCR Status report, 2019
3 According to Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
4 According to Statelessness Convention, 1954
5 According to Convention on Status of Refugees, 1951
6 Handbook on Protection of Stateless Persons, UNHCR, Geneva, 2014
7 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966
8 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966
9 Sustainable Development Goals, 2015-30
10 Handbook on Protection of Stateless Persons, UNHCR, Geneva, 2014.
11 Handbook on Protection of Stateless Persons, UNHCR, Geneva, 2014.
12 Indira Goris, Julia Harrington and Sebastian Köhn, Statelessness: what it is and why it matters? Forced Migration Review, Vol.32, April 2009.
13 Asha Bangar, Statelessness in India, Statelessness Working Paper Series No. 2017/02, Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, June 2017.

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Module E


Module E: Legal Regimes of Protection and the Time of the Pandemic

Coordinator: Oishik Sircar, Associate Professor, Jindal Global Law School



This module is will study the role of international and municipal law—historically, philosophically, and politically—in protecting the rights of refugees and forced migrants. The module will also be interested in understanding whether emergency or emergency-like situations (such as the current pandemic) change the ways in which legal regimes of rights and protection behave differently towards refugees and forced migrants.

There are three broad jurisprudential approaches that this module will focus on: the positivist approach, the critical approach, and the apocryphal approach. We will aim to appreciate what each of these approaches help us understand on their own terms about the role of law in refugee protection while remaining attentive to the rivalry between the positivist, the critical and the apocryphal that will also point at their limitations.

International Refugee and Human Rights Law advance the foundational and aspirational normative visions for the protection of forced migrants—be it refugees, internally displaced persons, the stateless, or the trafficked. These visions of virtue require the generosity of the modern state and a myriad transnational and local non-state actors to protect, promote and fulfil the rights posited in the transnational documents called treaties or conventions that spell them out—for example, the 1951 Refugees Convention, the 1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention or the 1984 Cartagena Declaration. And there are other documents like the UN Guiding Principles on Internally Displaced Persons that carry moral weight outside of the ratification-accountability regime of the previous documents. At the national levels we see states irrespective of their commitment to the abovementioned standards, protect or violate them through municipal laws or judgments.

The positivist approach to the study of the legal regimes of protection of refugees and forced migrants is to attend to the architecture and design of national and international laws and legal systems, by particularly paying attention to the forms of language used in these documents and the interpretive practices of both national, regional and international courts in implementing them. Such an approach is aimed at critiquing, reforming or appreciating the posited sources of law and the legislative and judicial processes that authorise and manage them.

The critical approach steps outside of the text of the document of law to attend to how power—geopolitical, imperial, colonial, neoliberal, and identitarian—has contributed to the discourses, knowledges and systems of refugee rights protection. The critical approach infuses skepticism and indeterminacy into the promise of normative good that international and national protection regimes claim to remain committed to. While it does not disclaim the need for a legal protection regime for refugees and forced migrants, the critical approach reveals how a reliance on legalism can result in further disenfranchisement of the refugee figure who is reduced to being a disembodied victim-subject of control and discipline by the law and the host state—identified only by the category of persecution in question. The critical approach aims to re-embody the refugee figure in their intersectional fullness as one who negotiates their way strategically through the terrain of persecution, flight, detention, determination and asylum, knowing well the racialized operation of the systems of protection of human rights.

The apocryphal approach is interested in the ostensibly minor aspects of the refugee experience to which legal regimes of protection have remained hostile. This approach attends to the sensory and aesthetic dimensions of refugee lives—at detention centres, at the borders, in the boat, or in courts—with specific attention to the visual, aural, and haptic metaphors and materials that help refugees archive or tell their own stories. If law is made hospitable to these apocryphal stories of refugee lives, what might the law look like then?


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Module F


Module F: Ethics of Care, Public Health, and the Migrants and Refugees

Coordinators: Paula Banerjee, Professor, University of Calcutta



This module reflects on the dimensions of the ethical within forced migration and refugee studies. The forced march of migrants to their homes states after the Indian lockdown brought questions of dignity and ethics in migrant studies to the forefront, against the backdrop of Syrian refugees escaping to Europe and persecuted Rohingyas perishing in boats. What are the moral judgments implicit in the definition of a ‘forced migrant’ and the ethical charge of the word ‘displacement’? Do these words mean different things in different contexts and do migration scholars from different countries interpret the charge of these words differently?

Migration studies posit a framework for interrogating the responsibilities of nation-states towards claims of asylum and what forms of protection refugees and forced migrants should receive thereafter. The question of who has the right to protection and asylum and the ethical of immigration control is very different in the global North and global South. Ethical questions on migration are also a question of location. This is reflected in the unjust distribution in the burden of refugees across states, between the global South and global North based on size, gross domestic product and political stability. This prompts thinking about the question of resource distribution towards states with high refugee burden and low GDP. This also throws up questions based on an ethics of care and an ethics of justice, positing the rights and agency of refugees with the duty of states towards refugees marked by war or political crisis.

The present pandemic has thrown light on the role of health management as a segment of public health and a state responsibility. The pandemic presents an opportunity for the systemic devaluation of exercising the capabilities of a certain segment of the population while enabling another sections. The question of individual choice marks a retreat of the state from the protection of marginalized populations. The interventions of the state are directly towards its citizens, posing a conundrum for those who are non-citizens or rendered nowhere people in the very process of migrating during an epidemic. marked by the absence of entitlements to healthcare provisions or legal protection. The moral judgments implicit in determining the legitimacy of the movement of migrants allow an element of ambiguity that permits such slippages, highlighting the suspension of an ethics of care and the ethics of justice and the resurgence of biopolitics.


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