Journalists, human rights activists and political activists are receiving stepmother treatment by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Nepal during these unprecedented challenging times, when there is a global lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
These human rights activists, journalists and political activists are duly registered with UNHCR Nepal as urban refugees and yet they face serious difficulties due to the closure to fight the coronavirus pandemic. This group of 20-22 urban refugees find it extremely difficult to support themselves and their families, as they do not have the means to buy food, do not have a work permit and do not receive financial support from UNHCR in Nepal to overcome these times of crisis.
It is not that UNHCR Nepal is facing a funding shortage, rather, UNHCR Nepal is doing its best to help refugees who have registered as religiously persecuted refugees in Nepal. Around 600 religiously persecuted refugees have registered with UNHCR Nepal who have arrived from Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Sources told News Intervention that of the 600 ‘religiously persecuted’ refugees registered with UNHCR Nepal, around 370 are Pakistani Ahmadi Muslims, eleven are from Myanmar, four are from Bangladesh and eighteen are from Sri Lanka. There are also several Christian refugees in this group.
“A large number of refugees who have sought refuge in Nepal in the category of persecuted for religious reasons arrived due to economic difficulties in their country of origin. Now they are business owners and financially well, ”a UN executive told News Intervention, speaking strictly on condition of anonymity.
UNHCR Nepal did not respond to an email sent by News Intervention on this issue.
“We do not receive any financial support from UNHCR, neither food nor shelter. Under normal circumstances, we could handle it somehow, but after this forced lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic, we just don’t know how long we are going to survive, ”said a human rights activist registered as a refugee with UNHCR. Another human rights activist also told News Intervention that they do not understand why UNHCR gives them stepmother treatment when religious refugees receive a good monthly allowance, easy loans to start their own business and skills development courses.
Human rights activists, journalists and political activists, who are now registered urban refugees, want security, shelter and work permits so that they can support themselves and their family in Nepal. However, UNHCR Nepal does not meet even these basic requirements.
Indeed, UNHCR’s mandate is to ensure the physical and legal protection of all urban refugees registered under it, so that the basic human rights of each refugee are protected while in Nepal. UNHCR must also provide free access to basic medical care and, more importantly, provide a monthly living allowance to all refugees.
It is quite strange that UNHCR Nepal has been quite selective in distributing compulsory life assistance to registered urban refugees. In the past, it has offered an undue favor to several refugees registered in the category of “persecuted by religion” by assisting and accelerating their resettlement in developed western nations.
“The way some religion-persecuted refugees ‘resettled’ in the West must have raised suspicions and now (UNHCR) have posted a notice inside their offices that no refugee should pay any unaccounted cash to UNHCR executives in Nepal for expedite their resettlement applications, ”a political activist told News Intervention under conditions of anonymity.