Sunday, April 22, 2012

Myanmar nationals seek refugee status

New Delhi, April 21, 2012, IANS:
Making pavements as their homes, over 500 Myanmar nationals, including 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 from the country at the age of 18. I have faced torture, extortion, trauma and starvation. 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,” said Dilwana Begum, who works as a maid in Jammu.

Since April 9, Begum and over 500 people like her belonging to Burmese Rohingya community, a Muslim ghetto 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 an asylum seeker card in August, 2011 by the UNHCR, but it deprives us from lot of facilities that a refugee gets. We want a refugee card. Our children need education, better living conditions like water to drink and toilets. But we are deprived of these 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.

The refugees say 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 said, “I lost my parents four years ago as the Burmese Junta shot them saying they did not support the military regime. I had to discontinue my education. Like other refugees from Burma, and Afghanistan and Somalia, we need a refugee status so that I can continue my studies.”
Refugee Mamoon Rafeeq who is a teacher in Jammu said the Rohingyas have been sidelined in Myanmar as they belong to a Muslim community. “Unlike other Myanmar 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 they discussed the issue with the refugees four to five times, but were not persuaded by their arguments.
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