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  Afghan refugees protest discrimination by UNHCR

Afghan refugees protest discrimination by UNHCR

Published : Mar 8, 2016, 1:11 am IST
Updated : Mar 8, 2016, 1:11 am IST

Afghan refugees protest discrimination by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in New Delhi on Monday. (Photo: Asian Age)

Afghan refugees protest discrimination by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in New Delhi on Monday. (Photo: Asian Age)

Refugees from Afghanistan gathered at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Monday to register their protest against what they described as discrimination by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.


In their declaration, the representative group, called Afghan Solidarity Committee for Afghan Refugees and Asylum Seekers, demanded that asylum cases closed by the UNHCR be reconsidered as soon as possible. The refugees also demanded that security of refugees and asylum-seekers be guaranteed.

The adviser of the committee, Mohammad Asif, said the UNHCR does not even accept Afghan cases in times of emergency.

“All we want is a place to stay here because it is so much safer in India than it is in Afghanistan. There women are attacked, limbs are cut off; my own father died in a bomb blast,” said one young female Afghan refugee. She alleged that cases of asylum for Afghan refugees, who live primarily in Tilak Nagar, Lajpat Nagar, Bhogal, Malviya Nagar, Ashram and a few other pockets in Delhi, are endlessly delayed, while other refugees are given priority.


Within its mandate, the UNHCR registers all individual asylum-seekers, conducts interviews to determine their refugee status and issues documentation. Reliable sources said there have been budget cuts in the UNHCR for the Syrian refugee crisis. In an emailed reply, the agency’s spokesperson Shuchita Mehta said it treats all refugees the same, irrespective of their nationality, religion, gender, ethnicity, political opinion etc. One of the protesting refugees related a case where the mother in a family had been resettled in a different country while the father and children remained stuck in India. Ms Mehta pointed out that resettlement countries have a limited number of places for refugees in India although resettlement from India is higher than the global refugee resettlement rate of 1 per cent. “UNHCR continues to advocate with resettlement countries to accept refugees from India,” Ms Mehta said in her emailed reply.


Following continued advocacy, long-term visa processes have been simplified and expedited by the Indian government to ease refugees’ access to them, including Afghans, she added.

Said Habibullah, an Afghan refugee who has lived in Delhi for the past 25 years, said they have not faced any problems from the Indian government or the people. The UNHCR is our biggest problem, he said. The children can’t study here, we can’t get good jobs, and can’t access medical facilities, he said. Ms Mehta shared that in principle all refugees in India, including Afghans, have access to government education and health services but may face some barriers in accessing these facilities. UNHCR, through its partner NGOs, facilitates access to these services, she said.


Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi