Burmese refugees and activists rally on World Refugee Day - New Delhi
Burmese refugees protest and hold a rally on World Refugee Day. Even as the UN convention on the status of refugees completes its 60th year of existence, the number of refugees worldwide stands at 15.4 million. India. 20th June 2011
Even as the UN convention on the status of refugees completes its 60th year of existence, the number of refugees worldwide stands at 15.4 million. The 2010 Global Trends report, which has the latest compilation of data related to refugees, displaced persons and stateless people shows that 43.7 million people are now displaced worldwide, showing massive strife across the globe.
In the South Asian context, to quote the UNHCR report: "Pakistan, Iran and Syria have the largest refugee populations at 1.9 million, 1.1 million and 1 million respectively." In India, UNHCR figures put the refugee population at 184,821 and the number of asylum seekers at 3,746. Most of the refugees in India are from its neighbouring countries - Afghanistan, Myanmar (Burma) and Sri Lanka.
India also hosts a large population of the Tibetans, but they are not categorised as refugees. The Tibetans do not fall under the purview of the UNHCR as they are directly assisted by the Indian government.
A significant segment of the refugee population from Tibet, Afghanistan and Burma lives in Indian capital, New Delhi. The Burmese are said to number around 10,000 and most of them live in poverty in certain pockets of the city. Though they do not have the legal right to work, they are able to find low-paid employment in the informal job market.
This World Refugee Day, June 20, 2011, the Burmese refugees gathered in large numbers in the centre of Delhi to mark the day. They arrived in chartered buses, brought banners, had slogans written on paper, which they tied to their heads. Conspicuous by their absence in this protest were the Burmese monks, a highly visible group due to their saffron attire.
Most of the protestors hailed from the Burmese state of Chin, a Christian dominated area. The Chin state borders India and a large number of the Burmese refugees hail from here. The Chin protestors also used the occasion not only to highlight the human rights conditions in the country but also to demand that the Chin people be granted independence by the military junta in Myanmar.
A large number protestors included women as well as children, some of who were very young. The slogans included: 'No More Rape', 'No Discrimination', 'We too are Human Beings', 'Stop Ethnic Cleansing', 'I am Homesick', 'I want to go home' and many others.