By Shaimin Raja
The plight of Afghan refugees in India is a topic that warrants in-depth scrutiny and thoughtful consideration. Recent allegations and discussions surrounding this issue bring to light legitimate concerns about the rights and well-being of Afghan refugees in the country. In this article, we will delve deeper into the complex challenges faced by Afghan refugees in India, analyzing the need for India to address these issues, and advocating for a more compassionate and rights-based approach.
India has a long history of providing refuge to Afghan refugees, with the roots of this humanitarian gesture dating back to the 1980s. However, a sobering fact emerges when one examines the statistics: only approximately 11,000 Afghan asylum-seekers are officially recognized by the UNHCR. This recognition, while significant, leaves a vast majority of Afghan refugees, including an estimated 13,000 Afghan students and military trainees, trapped in a state of legal ambiguity since 2021. The hurdles faced by Afghan asylum-seekers are evident from the start. Despite fleeing a war-torn homeland, they are granted only six-month emergency visas with no rights to education or employment within India. This not only perpetuates the precariousness of their situation but also raises questions about the extent of India’s commitment to their well-being.
One of the most significant issues faced by Afghan refugees in India is their legal status, or rather the lack thereof. The Indian legal system addresses Afghan refugees under the Foreigners Act of 1946 and the Citizenship Act of 1955. These laws do not differentiate between economic migrants and those escaping war, violence, or persecution. Consequently, Afghan refugees in India find themselves labeled as illegal migrants under Indian law, which deprives them of essential social services and safeguards against forced repatriation, known as refoulement. The result is a deeply unsettling state of limbo for Afghan refugees, where they not only struggle to make ends meet but also live under the constant threat of deportation, a looming specter that hangs heavily over their daily lives.
Afghans residing in India for over 15 years endure a myriad of socio-economic hardships. Lacking a sustainable source of income, they face a precarious existence with minimal access to education and healthcare. Their living conditions are often far from adequate, and the absence of clean water and sanitation facilities compounds the hardships they endure. Discrimination and harassment based on their ethnicity, religion, and language further exacerbate their challenges, making them vulnerable to exploitation and marginalization.
A report by the International Journal of Creative Research Thought (IJCRT), which cites UNHCR data, sheds light on the dire circumstances faced by Afghan refugees in India.
Approximately 25% of Afghan refugee children attend school, reflecting a glaring gap in their access to education. Only around 20% of Afghan refugees in India are employed, often in low-paying and insecure jobs that fail to provide a stable livelihood. Over 50% of Afghan refugees in India have no access to healthcare, leaving them vulnerable to medical issues with no safety net. Afghan refugees in India remain in a legal limbo, without recognition or protection. These refugees often reside in unhygienic conditions, lacking access to clean water and proper sanitation facilities. Discrimination and harassment based on their ethnicity, religion, and language add to their distress and vulnerability.
The recent closure of the “Sayed Jamaluddin Afghan School” in Bhogal is a glaring example of the struggles faced by Afghan refugees in India. This institution catered to over 200 Afghan refugee children, and its shutdown was due to a lack of funds. The closure of this school deprived these children of their right to education and left them without a crucial support system. Moreover, India’s decision to revoke Afghan student visas, despite the thousands of Afghan students who depend on Indian universities for their education, raises serious questions about the commitment to fulfilling promises made to Afghan refugees. Another layer of complexity in this situation is the perceived contradiction between India’s policies, particularly those considered anti-Muslim, and Afghanistan’s basic ideals as an Islamic emirate. The inconsistency between India’s domestic policies and its role as a host nation for Afghan refugees raises questions about the congruence between its rhetoric and actions.
The situation of Afghan refugees in India is a matter of utmost concern that demands immediate attention and comprehensive solutions. While the accusations against India may be viewed by some as political tools, they raise valid and pressing issues regarding the rights and well-being of Afghan refugees within India. India must acknowledge these concerns and take decisive steps to provide better support and opportunities to Afghan refugees residing within its borders. By addressing these challenges and ensuring the rights and dignity of Afghan refugees, India can solidify its reputation as a compassionate host nation, leading by example in upholding human rights and refugee protection principles. In these turbulent times, the world is watching, and India has a crucial opportunity to demonstrate its unwavering commitment to the welfare of Afghan refugees and to champion the cause of human rights.