The Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG), a New-Delhi based think-tank, has urged India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to protect the Afghan nationals who have fled to the country in the wake of the Taliban takeover of Kabul by granting them refugee status.
According to RRAG, the Afghans who fled to India include Wahidullah Kaleemzai, Member of Parliament (MP) from Wardak; Abdul Aziz Hakimi, MP from Parwan; Abdul Qadir Zazai, MP; Senator Malem Lala Gul; Jamil Karzai, former MP and second cousin to former Afghan President Hamid Karzai; Shukria Esakhail, MP from Baghlan; Mohamamd Khan, Senator; Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, former Finance Minister; Mohammad Sharif Sharifi, brother of former Vice-President Younus Qanooni; Mariam Solaimankhail, MP and Qais Mowafaq, Senior Advisor to Afghanistan’s Upper House.
Taking cognizance of the very volatile situation in Afghanistan, India on August 17 introduced a new category of electronic visa called “e-Emergency X-Misc Visa” with an aim to fast-track visa applications from Afghans for entry into India.
“The grant of “e-Emergency X-Misc Visa” is highly inadequate to address the needs of the Afghans fleeing to India. Visa comes with an expiry date which can be denied at any time. Visa by definition also excludes extension of any humanitarian assistance by the Government and any possibility to work or engage in activities necessary for survival.
“The grant of emergency visa, therefore, does not take into account the needs of the Afghans who fled to India and the fact that they are not in a position to return to Afghanistan as the Taliban has taken over the entire country and refoulement means certain torture or even death,” said Suhas Chakma, Director of the RRAG.
“It would be a historic blunder if India fails to grant refugee status and protection to the Afghan nationals who have fled to India irrespective of their religion. The Afghans who fled to India including the members of parliament had worked with the Government of India in the last 20 years, which makes them special targets of the Taliban, and therefore, India cannot abandon them by granting only e-visas,” Chakma added.
Having entered the territory of India, they have protections under Article 21 of the Constitution of India relating to the right to life, RRAG claimed. Further, the Afghans require humanitarian assistance such as shelter, food, clothing, schooling for their kids, health and medical facilities and cash doles or opportunity to work or engage in activities for survival, it said.
“The Government of India has been already extending similar humanitarian assistance to about 73,404 Tibetan refugees living in different states in India and 59,506 Sri Lankan refugees staying in 107 camps in Tamil Nadu and one camp in Odisha.
“The Home Ministry in its Report 2019-2020 Annual Report stated that India had spent Rs. 40 crores on the Tibetan refugees from 2015-2016 to 2018-2019 and Rs.1021 crores on the upkeep of the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India as of December 2019. Therefore, there is no reason as to why India must not formulate a policy on the Afghan refugees,” Chakma said.
In its complaint, the RRAG urged the NHRC to set up a division within the Commission to process the refugee claims of the Afghan nationals who have fled to India following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan or who were in India but are unable or unwilling to return; issue direction to the Government of India to not repatriate any Afghan refugee without prior sanction of the National Human Rights Commission, and direct the Government of India to formulate a policy on the Afghan refugees and provide all basic relief assistance as well as cash on par with the Tibetan and Sri Lankan refugees.