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Fire at Delhi’s Rohingya refugee camp turns savings into ashes

Sunday morning’s fire wiped out the refugees’ savings within a matter of minutes. Another challenge for the Rohingyas would be to re-obtain their United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cards issued to them at the point of settling in India.

delhi Updated: Apr 16, 2018 13:35 IST
Shubhomoy Sikdar
Shubhomoy Sikdar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rohingya Muslims,Rohingya refugees India,Rohingya refugees Delhi
A major fire broke out at the Rohingya camp at Kanchan Kunj near Kalindi Kunj, in New Delhi.(Burhaan Kinu/HT Photo)

For the past two years, Khurshid Alam, 30, was saving money to buy a new auto-rickshaw to replace the rented auto that he drove around. Till Saturday evening, the Rs 90,000 kept in his house at a make-shift camp near Kalindi Kunj in south Delhi assured Alam that he was very close in meeting his goal.

On Sunday morning, within a matter of minutes, all of Alam’s savings had turned to ashes after a massive fire burnt down all the camps where around 250 Rohingya refugees lived.

Alam, like Burmese neighbours in the Rohingya camp in Kanchan Kunj, lost everything he owned. Alam, who has a family of eight, that includes six children, said they now have to start life from scratch, just like they did when they had first come to Delhi.

Most men from the Rohingya camp work as daily wage labourers or run small shops and keep their savings in cash. Sunday morning’s fire wiped out all their savings, apart from other belongings such as jewellery and mobile phones.

Locals said while some families lost all their savings, others had lost their source of livelihood, as the small shops that they ran selling stocks of food and other articles, mostly to fellow refugees, had been now reduced in ash.

“My husband does not get work every day and I contributed to the family income by sewing. But the sewing machine that we had bought from our hard-earned money is gone now,” said Kulsum, who goes by one name, one of the local residents.

The second hand desert coolers or refrigerators, that some of the relatively well-off refugees had managed to buy this season, were also gone and the scorching heat of the Sunday afternoon painted a picture of the days to come. “I had purchased a cooler but the relief was short lived,” said Abdullah, who works as an Imam in a nearby mosque.

Locals said that another challenge for the Rohingyas would be to re-obtain their United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cards issued to them at the point of settling in India, the only valid identity card they have in the Capital and the country. Mohammad Sadiq, an administrative officer from the Zakat Foundation, a social organisation, said that a record is maintained at the UNHCR local office in Delhi, from where they can get the cards re-issued.

Zakat foundation, which has been helping the Rohingyas in resettling, said they had also offered to rebuild the houses and set up tents.

Several government departments, and even the Delhi Police and students from Jamia Hamdard University have also come forward to help the displaced men. Locals said police arranged breakfast for all the displaced men in the morning , with a group of students from Jamia Hamdard University bringing clothes for them later in the day.

First Published: Apr 16, 2018 13:33 IST