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The Asian Age (New Delhi)
May 9, 2001

By Our Correspondent

New Delhi, May 8 As many as 30 Burmese asylum seekers on Tuesday began an 
indefinite hunger strike in front of the United Nations High Commission for 
Refugees here demanding refugee status in India.

They said they should be collectively granted refugee status and given 
subsistence allowance. A representative of the asylum seekers, Mr Van Hnin 
Thang, said: "We left our dear and near ones in Burma, as we could no longer 
live in the country due to continued repression by the military junta. We 
hoped that we would get shelter in India, the world's largest democracy. 
However, we are losing hope about our safety and security as the UNHCR and 
the Government of India are not according refugee status to us."

A large number of Burmese, mainly youths, have come to India since the 1980s 
seeking asylum. In almost every case, the asylum seekers have been granted 
refugee status in India by the UNHCR and the Union government.

This time, Mr Thang said, about 50 Burmese applied for refugee status at the 
UNHCR about one year back. Among them, 30 applications were rejected by the 
UNHCR. Following this, the asylum seekers had put up fresh applications with 
the UN agency. The asylum seekers have said that they have not heard 
anything from the UNHCR over their petition.

"To draw the attention of the UNHCR as well as sympathies from the Indian 
people, we the asylum seekers are sitting on an indefinite hunger strike in 
front of the UNHCR office.

The strike will continue till the time some positive response comes out from 
the UNHCR," Mr Thang said. Relating their plight, the refuge seekers said 
their very survival is "at risk as they have no financial support for 
themselves." They have to fall back on the meagre resources of the fellow 
Burmese people, who receive subsistence allowance from the UN body being 

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