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Refugees in India face 'constant' prejudice, hostility, live in fear, seek resettlement

By Vertika Mani* 

People's Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL) has expressed deep concern at the treatment of refugees in India, especially at the daily violation of their human rights at the hands of the police. The situation of the refugees in India has always been precarious since India does not have any laws to protect them but their condition during corona lockdown and after has become alarming.
On November 2, 2021 PUCL got a call from a refugee who has been protesting outside the office of the United High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) for the past several months. He said the police had beaten several refugees protesting and had taken three to the Vasant Vihar police station.
When ND Pancholi of the PUCL arrived on the scene he found there were around thirty refugees from Africa, mainly Somalia, Congo, Sudan who had been in India and were angry with the the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for not even listening to their grievances. The women, men and small children had come to demand to speak to someone in the UNHCR but the gates were firmly shut on their faces.
One refugee women being pushed by the police said: “My daughter has been raped, and I have no protection. We don’t want to stay in India.”
The police had been called by the UNHCR when the security outside could not control the anger of the refugees. The police had taken away three refugees, two women, including an Afghan refugee, to the police station. It was on the intervention of a human rights activist, Sebastian Hongray, that the situation was brought under control and finally the three detained refugees were brought back.
However, PUCL saw several videos of how police beats the refugees even outside the gates of the UNHCR but takes them to a spot which is away from the CCTV. While appreciating the difficulties under which UNHCR has to work, it is shocking that refugees are beaten and arrested at the behest of the only agency which exists to protect the refugees.
The PUCL demanded that the UNHCR find a mechanism to talk to the refugee community on a regular basis and keep them informed of the situation. Also the refugees said they were not being given the benefit of some of the schemes and did not have information. One of them said that some gift cards were distributed randomly but many had not got the sum.
The main demand of most of the refugees is that they want resettlement, since in India they cannot legally work, or get admission into educational institutions. They had come to India thinking that India would welcome them but instead they had faced constant prejudice and hostility; and they lived in fear every day of their lives.
---
Convenor, PUCL, Delhi

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