Six Afghans in Delhi face deportation

The Christian couple from Afghanistan have overstayed their visa to India. With the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) rejecting their plea for refuge status, they now face deportation to Afghanistan,  where converts still undergo persecution, not only by the resurgent Taliban, but also allegedly by the government.

Also facing deportation are another Afghan-Christian couple and their two children and two other women. About 60 per cent of 150 Afghan-Christians living in India got Refugee Certificate from the UNHCR. Pastor Obaid is one of them. Some are still going through the UNHCR’s Refugee Status Determination process.

Christian organisation Bernabas Aid made a global appeal urging all to write to Montserrat Feixas Vihe, who heads the UNHCR’s office in Delhi, requesting reconsideration of these six Afghans’ plea for refugee status. “They, like all of us, fled from Afghanistan to escape persecution even as a decade passed since the fall of the Taliban regime in Kabul,” Obaid, a Protestant pastor, told Deccan Herald.

The arrest and trial of Afghan national Abdul Rahman in 2006 brought under focus the contradiction in Afghanistan’s constitution, which recognises both limited freedom of religion as well as the Hanafi School of Sharia (Islamic Law) that prescribes death penalty for apostasy from Islam.

The prosecutors had sought capital punishment for Rahman, who was baptised into the Roman Catholic Church in the 1990s. International outcry, however, saved his life. He was set free and allowed to go to Italy, where he later got asylum.  But, Rahman’s ordeal sent shock waves among Christians in Afghanistan and some of them fled to India.

They, however, found themselves in trouble when the UNHCR rejected their plea for refugee status in September and October last year. Musa, an Afghan Christian, was released from prison last month after being on death row for years. However, another incarcerated convert, Shoaib Assadullah, still faces execution for apostasy.

India did not sign the 1951 International Convention for Refugees or the 1967 Protocol relating to Status of Refugees.  It lacks a national legal framework for refugees.

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