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Give us a Better Future, Say Refugee Protesters Outside UNHCR’s Delhi office

After the protest, a memorandum was submitted by the Myanmar Refugee Demand Committee to the UNHCR.
 Give us a Better Future, Say Refugee Protesters Outside UNHCR’s Delhi office

New Delhi: On Tuesday, June 20, recognised as World Refugee Day by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), hundreds of people displaced from their countries, gathered in a demonstration in front of the UNHCR’s office in Delhi, demanding a better future

The World Refugee Day is dedicated to honouring the resilience and bravery of individuals who have been compelled to leave their home countries due to conflict or turmoil, as per the official website of UNHCR.

However, Tuesday’s demonstration was marked by allegations and grievances, with some protesters accusing UNHCR India of failing to provide them with necessary support to improve their lives, contrary to the organisation's objectives.

The protest took place under heavy police presence with the participants prohibited from displaying placards. The media was also being prevented from interviewing refugees at the demonstration.

The main demonstration was organised by the Myanmar Refugee Demand Committee, and saw participation of significant number of youths, most of whom said they had fled Myanmar after the military seized control of the country's Parliament in 2021.

Cynthia Nawe Niwim from Myanmar, who sought refuge in India following the military government’s raids against various ethnic groups, including the Chin and Rohingya communities, expressed her dissatisfaction with the living conditions of Chin refugees in India.

"It has been over a year since I applied for a 'smart card' from UNHCR. Despite completing the interview and all necessary formalities, I am yet to receive one. As a result, I am unable to obtain the 'residential permit'," she told NewsClick, adding that hundreds of Chin refugees had applied for residential permits but had not received it yet.

The residential permit holds significant value as it serves as a vital document to validate the refugee status of an individual in a new country. In India, the residential permit enables refugees to obtain an Aadhar card, a PAN card, and receive financial assistance from other countries. It is a prerequisite for Afghan and Chin refugees to access basic facilities in Delhi.

A section of the refugees who possess smart cards expressed similar concerns regarding the functioning of the UNHCR in India. SB Thomng, a 45-year-old Chin refugee, said he received his smart card within two years of arriving in India but claimed he was deprived of fundamental assistance that UNHCR was obligated to provide.

"I had expected to receive financial assistance from UNHCR, but we only receive it once every five months. Despite being a skilled worker, I was compelled to work in a factory. UNHCR India has not assisted me in securing a job opportunity that aligns with my qualifications," he told NewsClick.

Thomng also voiced his anger over the racial profiling he encounters while seeking employment. According to him, both the Indian society and officials approach the paperwork and documentation of refugees from the Chin community through a “biased lens”.

The memorandum submitted to UNHCR by the protesting refugees had a list of 10 demands, of which the key cconerns pertained to the living conditions of the community.

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