Burmese refugees on the road to nowhere, again
After an inconclusive meeting with the UNHCR officials, the 2,500 odd asylum seekers from Myanmar were moved out of Rangpuri area on Tuesday. Shaswati Das and Nivedita Khandekar report.delhi Updated: May 15, 2012 23:52 IST
After an inconclusive meeting with the UNHCR officials, the 2,500 odd asylum seekers from Myanmar were moved out of Rangpuri area on Tuesday.
With women, including those pregnant, and scores of children, the asylum seekers from Myanmar's northern Rakhine state were forced to evacuate the land in front of the 13th century ASI-protected Sultan Garhi tomb. They had been camping in front of the monument, near Vasant Kunj, since last Sunday after being sent away from behind the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Vasant Vihar. Here too, they faced resistance from Vasant Kunj RWAs and village panchayats.
Earlier, the UNHCR met their representatives. "The government of India has reassured us that they will not be arrested or deported, if they return to their places of residence in India," said Nayana Bose, Associate External Relations Officer.
The UNHCR records show most members of the group came from Jammu and some others from Saharanpur in UP.
Soon after the meeting, amid heavy police deployment and in the presence of various Delhi agencies, the asylum seekers were packed away in groups. Of them, 250-odd scattered along the Mahipalpur road, Nelson Mandela Marg and Ber Sarai neighbourhood.
"We were abruptly asked to move out, so we have no food or water. Police are not even letting us sit on the pavement," said Shafiq Abul, one of them. However, nobody knows where others were taken away.
While Rangpuri villagers claimed they were packed off to Khajoori Khas in northeast Delhi, police claimed they were sent off to the railway station. "We had to ensure that they don't stop in between so that they return to where they came from," said a senior police officer.
Although the foreigners and Jawaharlal Nehru University students - who helped them - were greatly aggrieved by police apathy, the area residents were more than happy. Lauding police's role, Preeti Singh of Vasant Kunj's C9 RWA, said, "It was highly commendable on their part to ensure smooth movement of these people out of this area."
However, the fate of asylum seekers is still in limbo.
Bose said, "In India, there is no national legal framework for refugees and there are different approaches to different groups of people. On the basis of asylum-seeker cards given by UNHCR, this group will be issued long-term visas by India."