Burmese stay in poor conditions, demand refugee status

Burmese stay in poor conditions, demand refugee status

Around 2,500 Myanmarese refugees have put up camps on a land near Sultan Gauri Ka Mazar in Rangpur near Mahipalpur.

Hard life: Myanmar refugees lead an unsettled life in the Capital. Dh photos/ sugandha pathak

They were camping at United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Vasant Vihar from April 9 and were shifted to the Mazar land on May 9.

The refugees are asylum seekers and are demanding a refugee status, saying it will help provide them with better facilities.

“We fled from our country as we were either fined, jailed or killed by the present government in Burma. All of us are from good families. We have left our land, houses, even family and fled the country,” said Ziaur Rahman, who has been residing in Delhi for over a year.

They said their stay in the country is like that of a cattle rearers nomadic life. They worry about around 700 children in the camp who are deprived of medical and educational facilities.

“Over 150 children here need immediate medical help, some have dysentery, diarrhoea, typhoid and malaria. Women are giving birth without any medical supervision,” added Rahman.

According to the refugees, various helplines have been provided by UNHCR, but they are of little help.

“When we call the UNHCR helpline regarding any kind of issue, they disconnect the phone. UNHCR had given us contact details of Don Bosco School but when we go there they tell us that children from outside Delhi cannot get admission and that they do not have an admission criteria for refugees who reside in Delhi,” added Salim Ahmed, who came to Delhi two years back with his brother. Ahmed’s mother still lives in Myanmar with his uncle.

“In these two years I have called my mother twice. Once from a Burmese phone connection, but it was too expensive so I couldn’t talk much. Another time when I spoke to her from here, she was fined by the government which tracks all international calls. So I have stopped calling her,” he said.

According to Rahman, there are around 5,000 Burmese refugees from the Rohingya community live in India. Ahmed belongs to this predominantly Muslim  community.
“We belong to Arakan state in Burma. Only one from ourcommunity got refugee status. There are four other communities which have got refugee status in the country but not us. Why this discrimination? What is our fault?,” said Ahmed.

They only get menial jobs for a living.

“We have been living on the footpath. We do labour work, since we do not get permanent jobs. When we ask UNHCR, they tell us that the government is not allowing them to give us refugee status. We ask for this in writing, but they refuse” said Rahman.

A statement regarding the issue came from associate external relations officer Nayana Bose of UNHCR.

It said, “UNHCR’s main concern is the protection of all refugees and asylum seekers and this means that they are not forced back to a country where their life or freedom may be in danger and that they are not subject to arbitrary detention.

“We register those who approach us from northern Rakhine State in Myanmar, as asylum seekers and issue them identity cards. The cards help prevent harassment, arbitrary arrests, detention and expulsions.”

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