As Hopes of Return Weaken, Afghans in India Demand Refugee Status | Refugee news

As Hopes of Return Weaken, Afghans in India Demand Refugee Status |  Refugee news

India is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees.

Hundreds of Afghans living in India are protesting the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and demanding refugee status in the Hindu-majority country.

Afghan refugees demonstrated in front of the office of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in New Delhi on Monday, demanding justice and security for the future of Afghan children and women.

Most said they fled to India more than 10 years ago, but are not yet recognized as refugees, fighting a complex bureaucratic registration process.

The system struggles due to an accumulation of years, as India is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees or the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees.

People protest outside the UNHCR office in New Delhi. [Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

In 2019, Afghans accounted for about a third of the nearly 40,000 registered refugees in India, according to UNHCR.

But there are many more that are not registered with the agency.

The demand for refugee status among the Afghan community in India has increased with the Taliban taking control of the country.

Many Afghans fear that the Taliban will erase the gains, especially for women, made in the decades since the US-led invasion in 2001.

When the group ran the country in the late 1990s, it imposed its harsh interpretation of Islamic jurisprudence, forcing a kidnapped life on many, particularly women and girls who were banned from education and most jobs.

This time, the Taliban present themselves as a more moderate force, offering amnesty to those who fought them and declaring that women’s rights will be respected, “in accordance with Islamic law.”

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In 2019, Afghans accounted for about a third of the 40,000 registered refugees in India. [Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

Meanwhile, an Indian Air Force plane carrying 168 people from the Afghan capital Kabul landed at the Hindon Air Force base near New Delhi on Sunday.

A spokesman for the Indian Foreign Ministry said the passengers included 107 Indian nationals and 61 others, without elaborating on the citizenship of the 61.

Another group of 87 Indians, who were evacuated by the Indian Air Force from Kabul to Tajikistan on Saturday, landed at New Delhi airport on Sunday with two Nepalese nationals among them.

India began evacuating its citizens last Sunday after the Taliban stormed Kabul.

The Press Trust of India news agency said some 400 Indians are believed to be stranded in Afghanistan.

There was no official figure for how many are left.

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