Mon, 15 Aug 2022

Kathmandu [Nepal], June 28 (ANI): Urban refugees on Monday staged a sit-in protest at the entrance of the UN refugee agency-UNHCR, seeking 11-point demand that as per them would make their stay in Nepal easier.

A large canopy of the urban refugees including the elderlies to children has been sitting despite the downpour and scorching sun.

An Afghan refugee taking part in the protest, Nargesh Husseini told ANI, "Actually Nepal is safe we know, but there is no work, we don't have job permission also so it's very difficult for us to survive. We're safe, we are not in danger but we don't have food to eat, UNHCR doesn't help us, they don't do anything for us."During the protest, a clash also broke out between the agitated group and security officials leaving a few injured.

Nargesh said that UNHCR says there is no resettlement or help for refugees in Nepal as the policy changed the year they came in.

"They (UNHCR) have to help us or resettle us. We came to Nepal in 2015, they say the policy changed the year we came here and there is no resettlement or help for refugees."Another refugee from Myanmar, Jafar Miya, who has lived for about a decade in Nepal complained that they don't have any facilities.

"We neither have a house here nor a permanent residence ship, our children are not getting a proper education, nor we are getting the work permit. We don't have anything that facilitates us. The Nepal Police also has been called here, we don't want that, this is not what we want," he added.

The protesters are a part of a growing number of so-called urban refugees in Nepal whose number, according to the official records, till the year 2019 had reached around 700. Urban refugees seek asylum in urban areas and live in their own apartments, unlike other refugees who live in camps.

In recent years, the number of ethnic Rohingya Muslims has increased in Nepal. The ongoing canopy also has a large number of ethnics from now military-ruled Southeast Asian nation.

However, the Nepali government, which is not a signatory to the 1951 UN convention on refugees, does not recognize them as refugees. Under its law, urban refugees are considered illegal immigrants and are subjected to a daily fine of USD 6. Refugees seeking to resettle in Western countries incur a large fine when trying to leave.

In Nepal, UNHCR works independently to determine the status of refugees and assists them with subsistence allowances, health care, education and other basic needs. It also coordinates sponsorships in third countries or refugees themselves can seek private sponsorships. Then, the UN refugee office in Kathmandu writes to the government to waive overstay fees.

Anyone remaining in Nepal for more than 185 days after the expiry of their visa is considered "illegal immigrant". Those overstaying have to pay USD 5 per day as per the immigration law.

In December of 2014, the UNHCR decided to reduce the monthly stipend of $50 by 25 percent. It said that while it would stop the allowance from next year, it would continue to provide it to refugees with special needs, including ailing, women, elderly and children.

The UN agency at the time had issued the statement stating the office was forced to cut allowances due to large-scale displacements in other parts of the world.

Though the UN body had issued temporary identification for the registered refugees which too has expired earlier this year.

"The paper which UNHCR had given us works temporarily. The police cannot arrest us, that's only its purpose. With that card we cannot get job, we cannot go anywhere, no other facilities would be guaranteed by that card while staying in Nepal. We only can stay here temporarily," Abu Taher, another Myanmar refugee told ANI.

The Rohingya community in Myanmar has been denied citizenship since 1982 and they are not provided job opportunities as well. The crisis of this community intensified after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which is regarded as a terrorist organization in Myanmar, killed nine officials and nearly 400 people in August 2017.

In response, the military and the Buddhist people, in general, started targeting the Rohingya. These Rohingya started coming to Nepal starting 2012. These refugees had crossed Myanmar into Bangladesh and then entered Nepal, via the open border with India.

The issue of refugees also entered the Nepal's Upper House on Monday where a member of National Assembly questioned about granting status to those undocumented foreign nationals.

The Home Minister Balkrishna Khand replied, "Those who were left behind will also get their identification card and we are doing necessary homework to grant the document to them. We also bore that amiability that they also would be able to live an easy life."Those urban refugees that has continued to turn in front of UN refugee body had fled from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Myanmar, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Iran and Iraq amongst others who entered Nepal on various timeframe. But now they are struggling to solve their hand to mouth problems and are worried for the forthcoming days. (ANI)

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