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Myanmarese refugee camp makes residents edgy

Settlement comes up behind UNHCR office in post Vasant Vihar; camp inmates say they have got a raw deal.

delhi Updated: May 03, 2012 01:55 IST
Shaswati Das
Shaswati Das
Hindustan Times

Opposite the busy Vasant Marg market in south Delhi's Vasant Vihar area, and just behind the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) office, is a cluster of around 800 Rohingya immigrants from Myanmar.

When HT visited the spot, scores of children were seen moving around in the makeshift settlement, women were cooking wherever they found space and the men looked on in despair. These refugees allege that they have been at the receiving end of the government and UNHCR's apathy. Residents claim it is an impending security threat.

"The refugee camp in the middle of a residential colony has two major problems — not only is it a security hazard for the residents, but their unhygienic living conditions are becoming a health hazard. They started with a few families, today the entire area is full of refugees," said Gautam Vohra, president of the Vasant Vihar RWA.

The refugees, who had crossed into India from Myanmar's Northern Rakhine State bordering Bangladesh made their first settlement at Vasant Marg on April 9. Police claim additional forces have been deployed to ensure adequate security in the area but residents remain unhappy.

"There are 623 families here and close to 800 people. Residents have been consistently complaining about this settlement in front of the market and the houses. We can't take any action to remove them but have deployed additional police personnel," said a senior police official.

While NGOs have been providing canned food and milk to the refugees regularly, refugees claim they have got a raw deal.

"The UNHCR had given us permission to set up our camp here saying that they would rehabilitate us. But it has almost been a month and they have done nothing," said Zaul Rehman, who lives in the camp.

The UNHCR rebutted their claims and said no permission had been granted to set up camp. However, it said it was taking action to rehabilitate the refugees.

"The majority of this group lives in areas far away from Delhi where UNHCR is not present. It is not possible for us to provide support in all these areas. For their own safety, we are encouraging them to go back to their places of residence in India," said Nayana Bose, associate external relations officer, UNHCR.

First Published: May 02, 2012 23:56 IST