Monday, 18 June 2018

Chittagong, Bangladesh: Hundreds Rohingya men, women and children from Burma, belonging to Burmese Rohingya community – Muslim community- 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 since April 9, seeking refugee status, according to Mamoon Rafique, one of the protesters - originally a resident of Mangdaw district of Arakan region and now working as teacher in Jammu.

Mamoon Rafique, an asylum seeker in India

“The UNHCR officials are discriminating against us because we are Muslims. Non-Muslim asylum-seekers – Chin, Rakhin, Kachin and others - from Myanmar get their refugee status card within months or even days but we are being kept waiting for years. Instead of proper refugee cards, we are being issued cards which say that we are ‘asylum seekers’ and even this card is issued without our father’s name and address.”

“The UNHCR cards which were given to us were no use as we could not seek admission into any school for our children or get employment for ourselves while in India.”

“We will not leave here till we are recognized as refugees,” said Shamsul Alam, another protester

“I came from Maungdaw. I fled from the Burmese government’s human rights abuses and formerly lived in Bangladesh. Later, we moved to India because we believed that this is a democratic country with sympathy and peace, where we can take refuge. If we cannot live here as refugees, we want to go to another country where we can live as refugees.”

Hundreds Rohingya men, women and children of Rohingya community from 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

"We were issued an 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 asylum seeker and now lives in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh.

"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 around 1,800 Rohingya as asylum seekers In India and issued identity cards to each one. The card is similar to the refugee card as it helps to protect them from harassment, arbitrary arrest, detention and expulsion, and to prevent them from being forced back to a country where their life or freedom may be in danger," Bose said.

“As for right to health care and education, this is available for everybody. They can access free education at government schools.”

However, the UNHCR officials say that they discussed the issue with the refugees four to five times, but were not persuaded by their arguments and will meet 10 representatives of the community again on May 20.

Around 10 to 15 thousand Arakanses Muslims - Rohingya community - are living in different parts of India at present where some of our people are incarcerated in Andaman jail, according to Mamoon while interview to Milli Gazette.

“We are on the edge of starvation due to the apathy of UNHCR towards our plight. We are living on the food offered to us by the local Muslims from across the road and are deprived of basic amenities and medical facilities.”