Chin: UNHCR Concerns Over Underage Asylum-Seekers
Posted by crcnewdelhi on September 15, 2011
29 June 2011: Refugees in India face new challenges including exploitation, discrimination due to caste system and poor access social services.
Below is an article published by Radio Australia:
MISTRY: The United Nations High Commission for Refugees says there are about 5600 refugees and 4000 asylum seekers from Burma, currently registered in India. Tens of thousands more are thought to be un-registered. The refugees make their way across the porous border with India and arrive in the eastern state of Mizoram. Many remain in Mizoram, but a large number also journey to India’s capital, New Delhi, where the United Nations High Commission for Refugees is based.
The UNHCR’s Chief of Mission in New Delhi is Montserat Feixas Vih She says there’s growing concern about an increase in young, unaccompanied refugees arriving in Delhi.
FEIXAS VIH: We are seeing increasing numbers of unaccompanied minors and that is a major concern because Delhi is not a place for unaccompanied minors. We try to support them but if you’re a child on your own you are much more vulnerable in terms of just about everything.
MISTRY: It’s unclear why more young Burmese are seeking asylum in India, but the lucrative people smuggling trade is suspected.
FEIXAS VIH: We know that there is a lot of trafficking going on the region and you know we sort of suspect that there is some traffickers involved in this and making money out of it and maybe telling families that if they send their children to Delhi they’re going to have a lot more opportunities.
MISTRY: But young Burmese in New Delhi often face dangerous conditions: including exploitation, sexual assault and robbery.
RAL KAP TLAUNG: I left my country out of fear of death but in New Delhi I want to die now (laughs)
MISTRY: Steven Ral Kap Tlaung completed a law degree at Rangoon University in 2005 and became a political activist, calling for democratic reforms in Burma. He’s part of Burma’s ethnic minority the Chins, who say they face discrimination by the military junta because of their Christian faith. The Chins make up the majority of Burmese refugees in India. In 2007 Mr Ral Kap Tlaung was put on an arrest list by the military after participating in the so called “saffron revolution”. Like thousands of others he fled to India, eventually ending up in New Delhi. But he says life there is an uphill battle.
RAL KAP TLUANG: We have so many miserable stories here in Delhi: some women got raped, children got raped, some boys even sodomised and even sexual harassment at home or at workplace. This sort of thing happening each and almost each and every day.
MISTRY: The UNHCR is particularly concerned for young Burmese women – who are the subject of constant sexual jibes and harassment.
FEIXAS VIH�: I think not only in Delhi but all over the world if you are a young woman on your own and you didn’t have much money and then you are very vulnerable to people exploiting you to become a victim of traffickers or others.
MISTRY: Steven Ral Kap Tlaung says Burmese refugees are also blighted by India’s strict caste system — regarded even beneath the “untouchables” who make up the system’s lowest rank.
RAL KAP TLUANG: The local people don’t know why they are here, why we are here and they don’t know what’s going on back in Burma so we face a lot of racial and physical discrimination and assault.
MISTRY: The Indian Government is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees but acknowledges people’s right to stay in the country once registered with the UNHCR. Registered asylum seekers and refugees are also allowed access to basic health and education services. But in poverty stricken India, making a new life is very hard for refugees who arrive with little money.
FEIXAS VIHE: They don’t have a formal work permit which means that the majority of them work in the informal sector and the informal sector in India is very competitive and there are many poor Indians who are in a worse condition than the Burmese and so they have to settle for lowly paid jobs in harsh conditions so they’re having a hard time.
MISTRY: Montserat Feixas Vih says the UNHCR is urging Burmese families not to send their children to India.
FEIXAS VIH: People should not be sending their children on their own because it is very harsh for them and yes we try to help them but there’s a limit as to what we can do. Source- UNPO
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