Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union on Thursday took to the streets demanding that the government as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) take immediate steps to address the pathetic and abysmal condition of Myanmar refugees in Delhi.
The JNUSU presented a memorandum to the High Commissioner who they said has promised to negotiate with the government to grant refugee status to the Burmese.
The refugee camp was earlier located behind the UNHCR office in Vasant Vihar. It has now been shifted to the premises of a mosque in Sultangarhi in the Vasant Kunj-Mahipalpur area.
The refugees who had got onto a bus to reach the protest venue,were stopped from leaving the camp premises by police. Only a few members were able to reach the protest venue. In Vasant Vihar,students were not allowed to reach the UNHCR office.
We could not allow them to protest because Section 144 is imposed in the area, said a senior police officer.
The refugees said they used whatever little space they had in the camp for cooking and sanitary purposes. As a result,diseases like diarrhoea and malaria were spreading,apart from several cases of dehydration. Women and children were the worst affected.
JNUSU President Sucheta De said,It is indeed shocking that neither the UNHCR nor the government is showing even the minimum humanitarian concerns to address the basic needs of these refugees. JNUSU has been visiting the refugee camp and trying to organise some relief by collecting funds from the JNU community. But it is an enormous task and public bodies have to be pressurised to address the urgent needs of these refugees..
The issue of refugees languishing on the streets of Delhi for more than a month in the summer heat has to be addressed immediately. As of now,the refugees only have an asylum status. The government and the UNHCR must grant official a refugee status to them so that they can avail their basic rights with a sense of dignity, De said.
Over 600 Rohingya Muslim families had fled from Western Myanmar to India about two years ago after facing considerable repression under the military regime in Myanmar. They arrived in Delhi on April 9,seeking refugee status instead of asylum status that has been granted to them by the UNHCR.