Thursday, August 11, 2022

Afghan refugees have ended protest outside UNHCR office: Delhi Police informs Delhi High Court

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The Delhi Police on Tuesday informed the Delhi High Court that the Afghan refugees, who had been protesting outside the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees at Vasant Vihar for the past 15 days, have ended their agitation.

The development followed the order passed by the Single-Judge Bench of Justice Rekha Palli on September 3, granting two days’ time to the Government to resolve the issue and shift the Afghan nationals to a designated place.

The Bench today perused the Status Report filed by the Delhi Police, which stated that there is no protest at the place, due to which nothing remains in the matter.

A petition was filed in the High Court by the Vasant Vihar Welfare Association against the gathering of foreign Afghan nationals (refugees/asylum seekers) outside the UNHCR building.

Advocate Shahrukh Ejaz, representing the petitioner association, informed the Bench that appropriate steps have been taken by the concerned authorities to prevent encroachment by the foreign nationals outside the office of the UNHCR and thereby, primary grievance of the petitioner association stands satisfied. 

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In light of the above, he sought permission to withdrew the petition with a liberty to approach the Court  if the need so arises in the future. 

The Bench granted the liberty as prayed for and dismissed the petition as withdrawn.

Advocate Ejaz, submitted that it has become a norm for similarly placed people to gather outside the office of UNHCR for protest, thereby creating a nuisance for the residents of the area time and again. He urged the Bench to direct the Ministry of External Affairs to formulate guidelines to ensure that such congregation by foreign nationals do not occur in the proximity of residential areas. The Bench, however, was not inclined to grant that relief at the moment.

The Vasant Vihar Welfare Association filed the plea through Advocates Shahrukh Ejaz and Nilotpal Bansal, seeking directions to the Centre, Delhi Police Commissioner, Delhi Government and South Delhi Municipal Corporation to take note of the foreign nationals (refugees/asylum seekers) who have started gathering, squatting and dwelling in temporary structures outside the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees at B Block, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi including lanes and parks adjoining it and remove the aforementioned individuals from the locality by settling them in appropriate dwellings or camps.

The main grievance of the petitioner association is that the squatting and dwelling of a large number of asylum seekers and foreign nationals in common spaces of the locality is causing hindrance in their enjoyment of the common spaces of the locality, and is also creating a possibility of the spread of Novel Coronavirus as there is no mechanism for ensuring that proper Covid-19 protocol is observed by the said individuals, who probably are not even vaccinated.

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The petitioners apprehended that if no respite is provided by the Respondents to the foreign nationals and the number of such persons keep increasing, the same could become a recipe for disaster in terms of public order as there is a possibility of the protest becoming violent and the pent-up anger of the foreign nationals being unleashed on the locality, while treating the public and private property along with the unsuspecting residents.

The petitioner association, therefore, prays for a direction ensuring that there is no encroachment in the vicinity of the residential area, clear passage of way, compliance of COVID-19 protocol by the Asylum seekers/Refugees, and maintenance of security.

The Bench had earlier expressed concern over the large gathering of the foreign nationals outside the UNHCR office and while issuing notice, said that the protest should not result in a super spreader event of Covid-19.

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