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Refugees demonstrated in front of U


A few hundred refugees from Afghanistan and Burma representing a
community of 3,720 families in Delhi demonstrated in front of the office
of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Jor Bagh,
New Delhi. Their grievances have been with regard to reduction of the
subsistence allowance from Rs. 1,550/- to Rs. 1,400/-, which they have
termed as irrational and unjustified. Their new demand now is to
increase the subsistence allowance from Rs. 1,550 to Rs. 2,000/- per
month per person. The immediate reason for the demonstration is due to
non-payment of their monthly Subsistence Allowance. Though it is 24th of
the month today they say they have not received their Subsistence
Allowance. The reason given by UNHCR is "no funds."  They ask, would
this mean that UNHCR staffs go without salaries because there is no
money?  The refugees are accusing UNHCR staff for their lack of
understanding and commitment to the statues and mandates of UNHCR. They
allege that some of the staffs do not have the basic qualities and
background in dealing with the refugees with respect, dignity humanness
and honour.

Because of the non-payment of even the meagre amount of the subsistence
allowance, some of them have been thrown out of their rented houses
especially at a time when the monsoon has been active in the city.
Families with women and children have been starving because of lack of
financial resources to buy food. One wonders as to the role of UNHCR in
this context!!  The very reason for which UNHCR has been created seems
to be undermined by the attitude of its staff in Delhi. The refugee
relief community has constituted a refugee committee by its own
initiative with some help from some civil society groups to take up
immediate relief. They are appealing to people and organisations in
Delhi to contribute generously towards the relief work.

The refugees are also taking this opportunity to highlight some of their
grievances and problems they face in India while taking shelter from the
repressive military regimes. To cite an example from one country- Burma,
it is reported that there are about 40,000 to 50,000 refugees in Mizoram
State alone from the Chin state of Burma as it borders India. The
refugee influx into India from Burma is due to gross human rights
violations and repression carried out by the Military Junta against all
opposition groups. There are very many Ethnic Nationalities who have
borne the brunt of the military violence of forced labour, forced
conversion, forced marriages of women from ethnic communities to the
military. It is in this context that one would expect UNHCR to play a
meaningful and a humane role as mandated by Nations' States who
constitute the UN.

The UNHCR does not have the right to enter areas in the North Eastern
borders to assess the refugee situation and respond to them
appropriately. Hence, the refugee community is also appealing to the
Government of India to provide welfare, security and protection to the
refugees who have taken asylum in this country. They are also
complaining of harassment and inhuman treatment from the police and
FRRO. They are seeking schemes from the Government of India to help
students having University education while taking asylum at a
concessional fee.

A memorandum has been submitted to the Chief of Mission of UNHCR, Mr.
Mahiga. Copies of this memorandum have been marked to the President, the
Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and the Home Minister of India
respectively, seeking their intervention and help.

Very many representatives of civil society groups in Delhi, NGOs, human
rights organisations, student & youth organisations, women groups and
other concerned citizens including some eminent persons participated in
the demonstration. Some of those who were present are:

1. Mr. Satya Paul
 Servants of People's Society.

2. Mr. Paul
 Vice President, PUCL, Delhi.

3. Mr. G. Devarajan
 General Secretary
 All India Forward Block

4. Mr. Soni Thengamom
 General Secretary
 All India Youth Federation

5. Mr. Sitaram Sharma
 All India Youth Federation

6. Dr. R.M. Pal
 Peoples' Union for Civil Liberties

7. Mr. E. Deenadayalan
 General Secretary
 The Other Media

8.. Mr. Vijay Anand
 Movement for United World

9. Ravi Nair
 South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre.

The Organising Committee
New Delhi
August 24, 2000