In a move to check its misuse, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has made it clear that those who carry the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) cards are not entitled for Aadhaar cards in India. The Ministry has issued instructions that only such persons who are legally staying in India are eligible for issuance of Aadhaar cards.
Sources said that the MHA missive came after some State Governments raised queries regarding issuance of Aadhaar cards to illegal immigrants including those who carry the UNHCR cards.
At a high level video conference meeting chaired by BR Sharma, Special Secretary (Border Management), it was categorically stated that those having UNHCR cards are also not entitled for Aadhaar card in India and instructions have been issued to the UIDAI for not issuing the card to illegal immigrants. The meeting was attended by senior officials of Intelligence Bureau, National Informatics Centre, Cabinet Secretariat, Ministry of External Affairs and Home Ministry.
“India is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention relating to the State of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol thereon. As such, the UNHCR cards have no relevance to the issuance of Aadhaar cards. In fact, UNHCR may have issued cards to illegal immigrants and therefore issuing Aadhaar cards on that basis will be highly improper and illegal, There should not be any issue in cancelation of all identification proof/documents obtained fraudulently by illegal immigrants including Rohingya ,” according to minutes of the meeting.
Insiders say Sri Lankan, Afghan and Tibetan refugees have been issued Aadhaar cards based on their Government-issued documentation. There are lots of instances wherein UNHCR card holders have been given the Aadhaar cards in the country. Even Rohingya in several States have managed to get Aadhaar cards.
The World Refugee Survey by US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants estimate the number of refugees in India at 456,000. The number of refugees who have registered with UNHCR is, however, around 200,000.
The biggest groups of refugees registered with UNHCR in India are from Myanmar, Afghanistan and Somalia. Then there are the religious minorities from neighbouring countries, Sri Lankan Tamils and Tibetans, who have been granted refuge by the Indian Government. Refugees registered with the UNHCR are given a card that protects them from forced deportation or detention. The card also gives them access to education in Government schools and free medical care at Government hospitals.
The Ministry further cleared that there should not be any issue in cancelling other state level identification documents obtained fraudulently by illegal Rohingya immigrants such as voter card, driving licence and ration card.
Sources in the Ministry also stated that it has issued directions to keep an eye on the movement of Rohingya across the country.