New Delhi, Jun 20 (EFE).- Dozens of asylum seekers from Myanmar protested over their precarious situation in India on Tuesday, the World Refugee Day, as New Delhi does not have specific laws to deal with them and is not a signatory to international treaties.
The protesters, who fled Myanmar in an exodus after the 2021 coup, gathered in front of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the Indian capital, holding placards that sought support for democracy in their country and submitted a letter to the UN agency’s mission chief.
“The Indian government has virtually declared that there are no refugees in India, and looks at all of us UNCR-recognized refugees as ‘illegal migrants’ and so does not give us residential permits or long-term visas,” the letter said.
Although India is recognized as a place of asylum for refugees from a number of countries, mainly the neighboring Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, it is not a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention and thus does not recognize the identification granted by UNHCR.
The protesters also complained that the UN refugee agency was taking “more and more time” to issue refugee cards, which led to the asylum seeker being entitled to “much less assistance,” even though they were already facing a precarious situation.
Without long-term visas or other documents regularizing their stay in India, which does not have a specific law to regulate refugees, these refugees do not have access to any documents to help them survive or seek formal employment.
“Without residential permit we cannot make Aadhar cards (digital identity card) and as a result we cannot open bank accounts, receive money from relatives abroad or get our children admitted to school, get work, get a (driving) license,” the refugees explained in their application.
According to the UNHCR, India houses around 250,000 refugees and asylum seekers, although the authorities offer support only to refugees of Sri Lankan and Tibetan origin, who form over 75 percent of this number.
Around 35,000 of the refugees in India have arrived from Myanmar, including members of the discriminated Rohingya minorities as well as those who fled the coup in 2021. EFE