Operation: Opération: India



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Key Figures

2020 year-end results
8,815 families benefited from dry food ration
5,316 women and girls received sanitary material
2,840 vulnerable refugees received cash assistance
168 refugees submitted for resettlement, and 100 people of concern departed for resettlement
100% of people of concern registered on an individual basis
2021 planning figures
11,340 women will receive sanitary materials
6,500 refugees will be assessed for vulnerability
6,000 refugees will be supported with multi-purpose cash assistance
4,000 households will access seasonal support
4,000 refugees will be provided with safe and dignified returnee transport
3,000 children will enrol in accelerated education programmes
2,000 children aged 3-5 will enrol in early childhood education
600 refugees will gain entrepreneurship or business training
300 refugees will have their naturalization facilitated

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Decrease in
2020 206,624
2019 207,334
2018 207,848


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2020 {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"budget":[15.0618463,15.230436229999999,15.81443432,16.16823089,13.33189265,14.21284071],"expenditure":[5.49998666,6.6833987299999995,5.71950218,6.083500859999999,8.30148099,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[14.987333289999999,15.124166279999999,15.633434320000001,16.01740689,13.172643650000001,14.02821598],"p2":[0.07451300999999999,0.10626995,0.181,0.150824,0.159249,0.18462473000000001],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[5.43533496,6.57782877,5.64382429,5.987085179999999,8.18611275,null],"p2":[0.06465169999999999,0.10556996,0.07567789,0.09641567999999999,0.11536824000000001,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]}
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  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021

Operational context

India continued generously hosting refugees and asylum-seekers from a range of countries in 2020, and UNHCR maintained its mission in Delhi and a field office in Chennai in order to coordinate protection, assistance and support in finding durable solutions and complementary pathways. Most people of concern in India were living in a protracted, urban context, except for Sri Lankan refugees who live in Government-operated camps.

Population trends

As of 31 December 2020, UNHCR registered a total of 40,010 individuals (28,714 refugees and 11,228 asylum-seekers), comprising of 13,089 men (33%), 11,257 women (28%), 8,067 boys (20%) and 7,529 girls (19%). The population of mandate refugees and asylum-seekers remained stable, with a minimal increase of 0.3% from 2019 (as compared to 3% increase from 2017 to 2018, 2% increase from 2018 to 2019). There was a significant decrease in the number of new registrations, across countries of origin, on account of COVID-19-related travel restrictions, and in line with population projections. In addition, there were 59,506 Sri Lankan refugees staying in 107 camps in Tamil Nadu State and one camp in Odisha, as well as some 35,000 refugees living outside the camps according to Government data. As per the latest census data available for 2019, conducted by Central Tibetan Relief Committee, the population of Tibetans in India was 73,404 (as of end September 2019). 

Key achievements

  • With new operational realities imposed by the pandemic, UNHCR adapted to remote registration and refugee status determination procedures and continued to coordinate and provide critical basic assistance to people of concern in need.
  • Despite travel restrictions, durable solutions were found, including voluntary repatriation of 196 Sri Lankans, 3 Somalis and 58 Afghans, and spontaneous return of an additional 71 people of concern.
  • UNHCR found solutions and arranged departures for resettlement of 100 individuals, while an additional 100 left for complementary pathways.
  • Due to the impact of the pandemic on livelihoods, UNHCR supported families with food assistance, essential items for hygiene and shelter and cash-based interventions, including thanks to generous in-kind contributions. 

Unmet needs

There were critical gaps in 2020, with over one third of the needs of people of concern being unmet by the available budget. Only 2,840 of 9,000 refugees and asylum-seekers with specific needs could be supported with cash assistance, leaving many with inadequate support. Educational support was available to meet the needs of only 20% of eligible children, due to insufficient funding, and women and girls did not benefit from distribution of sanitary napkins according to the level of needs. 

Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)

India received some USD 6.5 million as unearmarked and softly earmarked contributions, which enabled India operation to meet critical lifesaving needs of vulnerable refugees and host communities who were impacted by the health, social and economic impact of COVID-19. Through flexible funding, food ration was made available to vulnerable refugees and host communities impacted by COVID-19. Cash-based assistance reached vulnerable refugees such as person with disability, elderly, single women, unaccompanied and separated children, and seriously sick persons. Through flexible funding, operation was able to repurpose many of its programme to respond to COVID-19 pandemic, such as supporting digital learning for refugee children and strengthening communication with communities using digital platform. The pandemic continues to evolve and impact refugees disproportionately, UNHCR India relies on generous contributions to meet these lifesaving needs.

Working environment

India remains an important stakeholder on global issues such as climate change, urbanization and innovation and is an important ally for neighboring countries and ASEAN states for supporting socio-economic development programmes and strengthening collaboration on national security.
While India endorsed UNHCR’s Global Compact for Refugees (GCR), the protection environment facing people of concern to UNHCR is expected to remain quite restricted in 2020. Refugees can be expected to continue receiving exit orders, be at risk of detention and face return to their countries of origin. Opportunities to achieve self-reliance and economic inclusion for people of concern will remain limited. In order to address these challenges, UNHCR has more actively engaged with the Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team and seeks innovative means to provide livelihood opportunities to people of concern by connecting them with entrepreneurship programmes and social enterprises.

Key priorities

UNHCR will pursue improved collaboration with the Government of India through multiple channels including high level missions to India, dialogue at the central and state levels, and advocacy with the Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team. UNHCR’s regionalization and decentralization process will contribute to more efficient coordination and response on the ground.
UNHCR will also work with civil society, academia, think tanks, and the private sector, using the “whole of society approach” as outlined in the GCR. Building upon the progress made in 2018 to actively engage in the UN Sustainable Development Framework process, UNHCR will ensure inclusion of refugees into existing national systems linking refugees with the SDGs.
As constraints to refugee protection and resilience are expected to continue in 2020, UNHCR will need to provide a safety net through cash-based interventions to a larger number of vulnerable people while expanding opportunities to build self-reliance.
Latest contributions
  • 25-NOV-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 24-NOV-2021
  • Germany
  • 23-NOV-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 22-NOV-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • Japan

    private donors

  • 18-NOV-2021

    private donors

  • Argentina
  • Romania
  • Qatar
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • 17-NOV-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 15-NOV-2021
    United Arab Emirates

    private donors

  • 12-NOV-2021
  • 11-NOV-2021
  • Angola
  • 09-NOV-2021
  • 08-NOV-2021
  • Hungary