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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

‘Will have international ramifications’: Government seeks time to deal with Afghan protesters outside UNHCR

Vasant Vihar Welfare Association has approached the court stating that foreign nationals have been gathering outside the UNHCR office since August 15 and blocking the road, lanes and parks, which has made it difficult for the residents of B block to commute.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi |
Updated: September 4, 2021 10:22:16 am
afghan protestors, afghanistan crisis, UNHRC, Delhi afghanistan protests, Delhi news, ministry of external affairs, delhi high court, afghan nationals, delhi afghanistan news, delhi latest news, delhi news, delhi news todayThe Delhi Police earlier told the court that around 500 Afghan refugees have gathered in front of the office of UNHCR and are demanding resettlement in a third country. (Express Photo) by Abhinav Saha)

The Delhi High Court on Friday directed the Delhi government and Delhi Police to ensure that the number of Afghan nationals protesting outside the office of United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees in Vasant Vihar is “suitably reduced” and that they strictly follow Covid-19 norms.

Justice Rekha Palli also granted the Centre time till Tuesday to resolve the issue and said that if 500 people continue to remain there for so many days, it was likely to turn into a “Covid super spreader”.

“It is however made clear that in case by the next date the matter is not resolved, the court will be constrained to pass appropriate orders,” said the court, while listing the case for hearing on Tuesday.

Vasant Vihar Welfare Association has approached the court stating that foreign nationals have been gathering outside the UNHCR office since August 15 and blocking the road, lanes and parks, which has made it difficult for the residents of B block to commute.

“Not only is great inconvenience being caused to the residents but even otherwise the manner in which the foreign nationals are sitting close to each other without wearing masks is likely to turn into a super-spreader for Covid-19,” their counsel has told the court, while seeking removal of the protesting foreign nationals.

The Delhi Police earlier told the court that around 500 Afghan refugees have gathered in front of the office of UNHCR and are demanding resettlement in a third country. It also said that round-the-clock police staff has been deployed there and it was being ensured that they maintain social distancing, wear masks and follow the Covid-19 protocol.

The court was also told that an FIR was registered on August 31 against the protesters for violation of Covid-19 norms.

While conceding that no permission has been sought or granted to the protesters, Delhi Police also submitted that it was a sensitive issue that will have international ramifications in case any action is taken. “The only option is that we will have to push them but we have not done that,” advocate Satyakam, representing the police, submitted.

However, the Centre submitted that it needed some time to deal with the situation and asked the court to not pass any orders.

“We are in coordination with Delhi Police and they are taking care. They are basically refugees. They have not come here by choice. They are here because of the situation and compulsions. Few people will not understand what is the pain of the refugee. The petitioners (residents) must know that they have right but if we take action, say something, do something, it will have international ramifications. It is not that our Indians, our citizens.. they will also find difficulty, they are not here… some of our relatives are there. We need to reciprocate,” submitted advocate Ajay Digpaul, representing the Centre.

Digpaul also submitted that the protesters were before the United Nations and were not protesting against the Indian government. “We cannot interfere in the working of the United Nations. Today we should not go much into these issues. We are looking into the law and order situation,” he argued.

However, the court said that the law has to be equal for everyone and an exception cannot be made for the refugees. “Even if somebody wants to perform a marriage in Delhi, he cannot have more than 100 .. and these are 500 people sitting there very conveniently. There is no question of being unduly harsh but the law has to be the law for everybody. They are at the wrong place and how are they permitting 500,” Justice Palli said.

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