UN refugee agency takes up case of potential stateless in India

UN refugee agency takes up case of potential stateless in India
Activists shout slogans during a protest against the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Geneva: The UN refugee agency said it was holding talks with India about its citizenship register in the border state of Assam, amid concerns that many people, the majority of them Muslim, could join the ranks of the world's stateless.

Nearly 2 million people were left off a list of citizens released by Indian authorities on August 31 in the northeastern state of Assam, after a mammoth years-long exercise to curb illegal immigration from neighbouring Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

Those excluded had 120 days to prove their citizenship at regional quasi-judicial bodies known as foreigners' tribunals. If ruled to be illegal immigrants there, they can then appeal to higher courts.

"We have expressed concern that this exercise of verification of nationality may result in statelessness for some of the people," Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said at a news conference.

UN refugee agency takes up case of potential stateless in India
A man holds the draft list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) of his family. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

"The government of India has assured us that there is due process being put in place for these people to make recourse if their initial response was negative in terms of nationality," he said. "We need to see what happens at the end of this process and whether there will be people still exposed to statelessness. That's a concern that we have at the moment."

The UNHCR is midway through a 10-year campaign to reduce statelessness worldwide, estimated by the agency in 2014 to affect 10 million people.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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