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55 Pakistanis considered for grant of asylum

Lodged in the Tihar Jail for over four years, a group of 55 Pakistani nationals — who had burnt their passports in April 2007 during a protest meet in the city — have received a shot in the arm in their bid to find a new home.

delhi Updated: Oct 17, 2011 00:24 IST
Abhishek Sharan

Lodged in the Tihar Jail for over four years, a group of 55 Pakistani nationals — who had burnt their passports in April 2007 during a protest meet in the city — have received a shot in the arm in their bid to find a new home.

Enjoying the ‘refugee’ status granted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), these inmates are currently being considered for the grant of asylum by diplomatic authorities of the US and Canada.

“Till now, around 22 of these inmates have been interviewed by authorities from US’s Indian Embassy, while three others have been interviewed by the Canadian Embassy to assess their eligibility for grant of asylum,” said a jail source.

The source added, “By October 19, the rest from this group, around 30, would also be assessed via interviews by the authorities.” Some of these inmates have already undergone mandatory medical examination as part of this exercise.

The Pakistanis, who are under-trials, belong to a minority religious sect (Gohar Shahi) and have expressed their unwillingness to go back to Pakistan, where they fear persecution on religious grounds and blasphemy charges that are punishable by life term or even execution.

The Indian authorities had requested the UNHCR to locate “a third country” for relocation of these Pakistanis.

The group of 55 inmates — 36 males, 19 females — include married couples who are lodged in sub-jail four and six of the jail, according to jail’s spokesperson Sunil Gupta. Seven kids, whose parents are part of the group of 55 inmates, stay in sub-jail six with their mothers.

On April 23, 2007, the inmates held a protest at Jantar Mantar and burnt their passports and tourist visas. At the protest meet, they raised slogans against their government and burnt effigies of Pakistani leaders and Al Qaeda’s slain founder Osama Bin Laden.

The Delhi Police had charged them with illegal stay in India without valid documents under provisions of the Foreigners’ Act, the IPC and Registration of Foreigners’ Act.