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After four year wait, 64 MFI members to get refugee status

10 years, 6 months ago

We at MFI are delighted to hear that the Indian government and the United Nations have agreed not to deport our members in Tihar Jail and have instead chosen to grant them refugee status. We sincerely thank them for helping our members avoid certain death and persecution in Pakistan. 

Article from The Times Of India, 21 April 2011

After 4-yr wait, 64 Pak nationals to get refugee status – Neeraj Chauhan, TNN, Apr 21, 2011, 02.31am IST

NEW DELHI: After waiting for almost four years, 64 Pakistani prisoners, who are lodged in Tihar jail and seeking asylum, now have a ray hope from the Indian government. But it comes with a rider. The government has finally given 'refugee status' to these prisoners, who had burnt their passports and visa papers at Jantar Mantar in April 2007 seeking refugee status in India.

The government has asked United Nations (UN) to "find a third country for their relocation".

"It has been decided with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recommending 64 Pakistani prisoners lodged in Tihar Jail be treated as refugees. We request UNHCR to locate a third country for their relocation," the government stated in a communiqué to UNHCR and Tihar last week. Tihar spokesperson Sunil Gupta confirmed the development to TOI.

On a petition of Mehdi Foundation International (MFI), Delhi high court had asked UNHCR in December 2010 to look into the matter of the Pakistani nationals and file a report within a month while restraining the government from deporting these prisoners. UNHCR counsellors met Pakistani inmates in Tihar Jail to know as to why they were reluctant to return to their country.

These nationals belong to a minority Gohar Shahi sect, which is banned in Pakistan, and have been lodged in jail number 4 and 6 at Tihar. These prisoners include 19 women and seven children, said officials. "They came to India on tourist visas and staged a protest at Jantar Mantar on April 23, 2007, under the banner of MFI. They asked India for asylum and refused to return to their homeland, burning their passports and visas besides Pakistani flags and effigies of former Pakistan president Parvez Musharraf in New Delhi.

They claimed they feared for their lives in Pakistan and that the Pakistan government could charge them with blasphemy law," said a senior police officer. Delhi Police had arrested them for not having any travel document and sent them to Tihar.

After speaking to each of them individually, UNHCR had submitted its report to Delhi high court.

The Indian government has now sent its reply agreeing with UNHCR's recommendation that they be given refugee status. "However, the Indian government also says that they should be kept in some other country other than India and Pakistan. So, the government has requested UN itself to locate a country where they could stay," said a source.

Sources said this was the first time after partition that such a large number of Pakistani nationals have been given refugee status by India.

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