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Mizzima: Burma refugees without UNH

Burma refugees without UNHCR support in Delhi

New Delhi, August 14, 2000
Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)

Hundreds of Burma refugees in New Delhi face the possible starvation and
homeless as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in
New Delhi cannot pay the monthly allowance for this month. The UNHCR,
which has been providing the amount of Indian Rupee 1,550 per month per
person to its refugees in India, could not make the payment in the first
week of August as it used to make. It is now in the half of the month
and seems that UNHCR would not be able to pay the allowance in the
coming days either. When contacted to the UNHCR office in Delhi, some
refugees are informed that it might not be possible to make payment till
20th of this month.

The UNHCR Office in Delhi cited the reason as "the serious financial
constraints that UNHCR is facing globally". Apparently, the Geneva
headquarters has not sanctioned allowance money for the refugees in

Due to delay of the payment from UNHCR, some landlords have evicted the
refugees from their houses as the refugees cannot pay house rent on due
time. Some are forcing the refugees to pay rent immediately by cutting
water or electricity supplies. "We know of at least a hundred families
of them", said a community leader, who along with others are now
desperately seeking financial and material assistance from
non-governmental organizations and individuals in Delhi.

"Some families are starving, as they have no means of support
whatsoever. The children studying in schools cannot pay their tuition
fees", he continues. An emergency relief committee was formed on last
Friday in a meeting of Burma refugee community held in New Delhi to seek
ad hoc financial and food supplies for the refugees.

Since September 1988, when the military came to power by a coup in
Burma, hundreds of Burmese nationals, mostly students and youth
pro-democracy activists, have crossed the border to India. A large
number of Burmese refugees, mostly ethnic Chin, have also taken shelter
in India due to human rights abuses, political and economic hardship
under the military regime. Approximately between 40,000 to 50,000 Chin
nationals are currently staying in India's northeastern state Mizoram.
In recent weeks, the Mizoram government launched a crackdown on these
Burma nationals in the state and about one thousand Chin asylum-seekers
are being detained in various jails in Mizoram. They face possible
forced return to Burma after their release from prison.

Of the number 800 Burma nationals currently staying in Delhi, about 600
are recognized and protected refugees of the UNHCR in India. There are
about one hundred and fifty families with a hundred children (mostly
between the age of 2 to 7 years). There are about one hundred refugees
whose application for refugee status are either rejected or pending with
the UNHCR office and thus they are not entitled to UNHCR's any
humanitarian assistance. Even UNHCR-recognized refugees experience
hardship and problems in their daily life due to inadequate financial
assistance provided by UNHCR.

In July this year, UNHCR office in Delhi informed the refugees that the
monthly allowance from July this year would be at Rupees 1,400 (about US
$ 31) per person, in stead of 1,550 paid in previous months. The worst
yet come in this month, as UNHCR cannot pay the allowance money to the
refugees till date.