Saturday, May 19, 2012

Rohingya asylum seekers back in Delhi

The Hindu Members of a displaced Burmese refugee family who are regrouping to find their family members in New Delhi on Friday. Photo: S. Subramanium

Seeking refugee status, they are trickling back "in search of a home and access to better life"

Days after being forcibly evicted from Delhi, several hundred Rohingya asylum seekers, who participated in the protest demanding refugee status in India this past week, are now trickling back into the Capital “in search of a home and access to better life.”

“After the Indian government assured us that they will issue long-term visas, it directed the Delhi Police to immediately disperse the protesters and instructed us to return to our place of residence in the country. Several participants who came to Delhi from Rajasthan, Jammu and various parts of Uttar Pradesh were bundled into buses and abandoned at railway stations, bus stands and some people were left on the outskirts of the Capital without food, water or any means of communication with our friends. Many of them are now returning to the Capital to keep up the pressure on the Indian government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. We feel that being in the Capital gives us more security and better access to food, shelter and healthcare facilities,” said Zia-Ur-Rahman, who claims to have managed to return to the Capital to admit his seven-month-old son to a hospital for acute stomach infection.

Also forced to return in search of their family members, Mr. Zia said: “The eviction by the police was done in such haste that many people are now untraceable and several of us are coming back to Delhi to look for them.”

Non-government organisation ‘Zakat Foundation of India' is housing and taking care of 50 Rohingya families (over 200 people) in the Okhla area. It had to turn down the request of taking in 30 more people on Friday afternoon.

“We are in talks with the authorities to rent more space for the people coming in but as of now there is no space for more people. Friday witnessed several asylum seekers trickling back into the city. They tell us that Delhi seems to be a less hostile place,” said Dr. Najam-Us-Salam of the Foundation.

“We were forced to live without access to basic healthcare, food, shelter, work permits or any legal protection. We feel that living in the Capital gives us visibility and maybe also better opportunity,” said Mohammed Yusuf, who six months ago fled Myanmar with his wife, eight children and his 95-year-old mother-in-law in search of a better life in India.

“I came to Uttar Pradesh to a friend's house in the hope that in India I will find the home that was denied to me in my country of birth. However, me and my family have been vagabonds ever since. Desperate to end the uncertainty surrounding our future, we participated in the sit-in protest in Delhi demanding refugee status from the Indian government. Though we were picked up by the Delhi Police and left near Uttar Pradesh, we have come back to Delhi knowing that we will be better off here,” said Mr. Yusuf.

“We plan to stay in some area which has people from our community and hope that at least my children will have one meal a day. That is my aspiration for my family now, lets see what tomorrow brings in for us,” he said.

Keywords: Burma refugees, Rohingya asylum seekers, Delhi police, Dr. Najam-Us-Salam, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

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