New Delhi: Making
pavements as their homes, over 500 hundred Myanmar nationals,
among them women and children, have camped for the past 12 days
near the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
office here, demanding a refugee status.
"Life is not easy for refugees like us, who fled our country... at
the age of 18... I have faced torture, extortion, trauma and
starvation," Dilwana Begum, who works as a maid in Jammu, told
IANS. "We are at least happy that unlike in our own country or
Bangladesh, in India we feel safe and are not harassed for being
Muslims. But the UNHCR is not paying heed to our plight."
Since April 9, Begum and over 500 people like her belonging to
Burmese Rohingya community, a Muslim community hounded out from
Myanmar (formerly Burma), have made temporary sheds of polythene
sheets by the rear compound wall of the UNHCR office in B-2 Block
of Vasant Vihar in south Delhi, demanding refugee cards.
"We were issued a asylum seeker card in August 2011 by the UNHCR,
but it deprives us from lot of facilities that a refugee would
get. We want a refugee card. Our children need education, better
living conditions like water to drink and toilets. But we are
deprived of this as we don't have a refugee card," said
Zia-ul-Rahman, a refugee who left Myanmar two years ago and now
lives in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh.
The refugees say that for the past 12 days, most of them did
menial jobs to get food and water.
"We are at their doorsteps seeking help, but the UNHCR has not
even reached us to see how we are managing here with small
children and old people, hope they know the real meaning of human
rights," lamented Abdul Hafeez, who stays at the camp.
Hafeez speaks very little Hindi, and through an interpreter told
IANS: "I lost my parents four years ago as the Burmese Junta shot
them saying that they did not support the military regime. I had
to discontinue my education. Like other refugees from Burma and
countries like Afghanistan, Somalia, we need a refugee status so
that I can continue my studies."
Another refugee, Mamoon Rafeeq who works as teacher in Jammu said
that the Rohingyas have been sidelined in Myanmar as they are a
"Unlike other Myanmarese refugees, Rohingya has been sidelined
because we are Muslims. Other Myanmar refugees who are Christians
and Buddhists are given refugee card," Rafeeq claimed.
However, the UNHCR officials say that they discussed the issue
with the refugees four to five times, but were not persuaded by
The officials said they will now meet 10 representatives of the
community on May 20.
"We don't use the term Rohingya - we refer to this group as
Muslims from northern Rakhine state. In India, there is no
national legal framework for refugees, and because of this there
are different approaches to different groups of people," Nayana
Bose, associate external relations officer UNHCR, told IANS.
"We have already registered them as asylum seekers and issued
identity cards. The card is similar to the refugee card as it
helps prevent harassment, arbitrary arrests, detention and
expulsion," Bose said.
"Moreover, we are having an on-going dialogue with this group, and
for their own safety and well-being, we have asked them to go back
to their residential places in India. We have offered to meet
their representatives in a more structured manner, to see how best
we can assist them, as we do with all groups of refugees and
asylum seekers," Bose added.
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