NEW DELHI: India today decided to allow minority refugees from Bangladesh and Pakistan to stay in this country even after expiry of their visas on humanitarian grounds.
The central government has decided, on humanitarian considerations, to exempt Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals belonging to minority communities who have entered India on or before December 31, 2014, in respect of their entry and stay in India without proper documents or after the expiry of relevant documents, a statement issued by the Home Ministry said.
The decision has been taken under Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and Foreigners Act, 1946, it said.
The government also issued two notifications in the Official Gazette today under Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and Foreigners Act, 1946.
There are reports that a number of Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals belonging to minority communities in those countries, such as Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Parsis and Buddhists, took shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution.
They have entered India either without any valid document, including passport and other travel document, or with valid documents but the validity of such document has expired.
The issue of regularisation of entry and stay of such Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals in India has been under consideration of the central government, the statement said.
There has been no exact numbers of such minority refugees from these countries but officials put the figure of around two lakh Hindu and Sikh refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan living in India.
Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi government came to power in May last year, several steps including issuance of Long Term Visa (LTV) for these refugees have been initiated.
In November last year, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh had approved a number of steps to ease grant of citizenship to such refugees which included manual acceptance of applications for citizenship, consideration of an affidavit filed before the authority in return for citizenship renunciation certificate and permission to the children of such refugees, who entered India, on the basis of their parents' passport, to apply for Indian citizenship without a passport.
In April this year, the Union Home Ministry rolled out an online system for LTV applications and for their processing by various security agencies.
The decision was taken to address the difficulty being faced by Hindus and Sikhs of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who had come with the intention of settling permanently in India.
There are 400 Pakistani Hindu refugee settlements in cities like Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jaipur. Hindu refugees from Bangladesh mostly live in West Bengal and northeastern States.