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Memorandum submitted to UNHCR by re
Mr. Augustine Mahiga
Chief of Mission
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
14, Jor Bagh,
August 24, 2000
Dear Mr. Mahiga,
As you are aware, there are about 15, 000 refugees (3,721 families) in
Delhi who have been recognized by your office. These refugees are from
Afghanistan, Burma, Sudan, etc.
In August, all of us were in for a rude shock when we went to collect
our monthly subsistence allowances as your office informed us that all
the payments are being withheld for lack of funds. Today is 24 of August
and we are not still not paid the subsistence allowance. Apart from
this, UNHCR had arbitrarily reduced subsistence allowance from Indian
rupees 1,550 to 1,400 per person two months ago.
As you know, the Subsistence Allowance, which we usually get at the
beginning of the month, is used for paying the monthly house rent out
and the rest are used for taking care of the daily needs of the
refugees. Due to this unnoticed delay in payment, the condition of
refugees has become desperate and precarious.
Hundreds of refugee families are going without food and the landlords
are throwing some out of their houses because they have not paid their
house rent. The children studying in the schools are being ousted, as
they cannot pay due fees. Their teachers have told the children; that if
they cannot pay school fees, they will be thrown out of the School.
Many children belonging to the refugee community have stopped going to
School because of the threat of being thrown out of School.
There are hundreds of refugees whose application for refugee status are
either rejected or pending with the UNHCR office in New Delhi. For
example, there are about one hundred refugees from Burma who are either
rejected or pending with the UNHCR and thus are not entitled for any
financial, medical and humanitarian assistance from UNHCR. In most
cases, it takes up to three months for an asylum-seeker to get the
refugee certificate. While waiting for the refugee-status from UNHCR, an
asylum-seeker has to depend on the assistance and help of other refugees
who themselves are in difficult economic conditions as their only
financial assistance is from UNHCR, which is meager Rs. 1,400/- per
UNHCR, through Voluntary Health Association of Delhi (VHAD), is
providing medical treatment for the refugees but the facilities that are
available at the Clinics are inadequate & probably ill equipped to take
care of the medical needs of all the refugee communities in Delhi. There
are instances when even treatment to some refugees have been denied in
The refugees are now asked to register with the Foreigners' Regional
Registration Office (FRRO) in Delhi for residential permit. This has its
own problems and hazards as there is no rules or time framework of
renewal of these residential certificates, refugees get anywhere from 3
months to six months extensions, there is no fixed period of duration of
residential permit, the worst is the treatment that is meted out to the
refugees by those concerned Officers at the FRRO. Most of the time the
experience is very humiliating. We want the tenure of residential permit
to be concurrent with that of refugee certificate.
The treatment meted out to the refugees by some of the Staff especially
at the Reception in UNHCR is no different from the one that we just
narrated to you. UNHCR instead of affirming the self-respect and dignity
of the refugees is itself through the staff at the reception undermines
The refugees increasingly feel insecure as there is inadequate
protection including legal protection to the refugees. There have been
many instances where some members of the refugees community have been
beaten up, insulted and harassed by vested interests in the localities
where they live. Inspite of complaints necessary assistance,
intervention and protection have not been provided.
Although UNHCR, through YMCA, is providing some vocational and technical
courses, this has not had any direct benefit to the refugees now. It may
help them in the long term but since the refugees are not provided with
work permit in India, it is difficult to find a job even with this
Those refugees who are studying in Universities and Colleges have
enrolled as "foreigners" which means that they have to pay a higher fee
and most of them cannot afford. UNHCR should intervene and request the
Government of India to consider either waiving of the fees or providing
concessional rates for the refugee students who are in the
Universities?, educational and training institutions? in this country.
Due to continuous human rights abuses, political repression and economic
hardships prevailing in Burma, a large number of Burmese refugees,
mostly from ethnic nationalities especially from Chin communities have
taken shelter in India, particularly in Mizoram State which borders with
Chin State of Burma. Approximately between 40,000 to 50,000 Chin
nationals are currently in Mizoram. The Government of Mizoram has been
recently arresting, and deporting and handing over these asylum-seekers
from Burma to the military authorities in Burma. This action endangers
the life of all those who have been handed over to the military junta.
There are cases where many of the people who have handed over have
either been imprisoned, tortured or killed. The UNHCR should impress the
Government of India to allow them to visit these areas to extend
necessary assistance and help to them, where their life is endangered
under the military junta in Burma. The UNHCR should extend necessary
assistance to these asylum-seekers from Burma.
Many refugees have applied for resettlement in a third country but
nothing concrete seems to have been happened with regard to this. We
persuade UNHCR to speed up the processing of the applications and
interceded on their behalf with the foreign missions for resettlement in
a third country.
We, the refugees from Afghanistan, Burma, Sudan, etc. demand the
following from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
1. Fulfill the mandate of the UNHCR.
2. Increase the Subsistence Allowance immediately to Rs. 2,000/- per
3. Evolve mechanisms to speed up the process of status determination of
an asylum seeker.
4. Make transparent the process of ascertaining the refugee status of
asylum seekers. If possible include a third party in the process. (Maybe
a representative from a local NGO).
5. In matters of decision making and processes relating to or concerning
the refugees UNHCR should include representatives from the refugee
6. UNHCR should play more effective and proactive role with the
government of India on matters concerning security, welfare and
protection of refugees in India.
7. Provide equal status to children and women and work towards their
empowerment. Special attention to be given in matters of health and
8. To speed up the process of assisting those who have applied for
resettlement in third country.
9. To provide full and adequate health care services to the refugees.
10. Demand that the UNHCR staff respect the dignity of the refugees and
deal with them humanly.
Copy to: High Commissioner, UNHCR, Geneva
New Delhi, August 24, 2000
Contact persons: Mohamed Naim (tel. 2947067)
Benjamin, Aung Don, Soe Myint, Ceu Thawng (tel. 5545236)
Fax : +11-5529817