UNHCR: India is one of the most generous countries for refugees

NEW DELHI: India with its history, culture, traditions, is today an example of generosity in the way it has opened its borders to all people who have come looking for safety and sanctuary.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Friday that India is one of the most generous countries for refugees, ensuring safety and employment to the displaced people in the best of her capacity.

The chief of mission for UNHCR in India and the Maldives Yasuko Shimizu, who took up her post in June 2016 was awarded the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development 2015, said that the country has helped refugees by providing work permits and issuing long term visas.

Shimizu said.”India is one of the most generous countries for refugees. The country has given opportunities for such people to go for jobs by providing work permits. Although we give refugee cards to displaced people but the government here issues long term visas for them which is very helpful.”

The challenge for Government and UNHCR is to ensure that the rights of refugees and asylum seekers remain protected.

Shimizu said.”Education is one of the most important issues for refugee families. We should have assistance for refugee children so that they can easily access education at local schools.”

Ms. Shimizu has been serving with UNHCR for more than 20 years. Prior to her current assignment, she was the Deputy Chief of Mission, UNHCR India since July 2015 and Deputy Representative, UNHCR Yemen betweem 2013-2015. She was earlier the Senior Field Coordinator for Rhakine situation, Myanmar. She has served in various capacities in UNHCR HQ in Geneva and for many field operations such as Afghanistan, Kosovo, Albania, Russia and Uganda.

She said.”Refugees are a result of political consequences in any country. We have been raising issues at the UN that humanitarian assistance cannot replace political concerns.

“India has been tolerant with people of different backgrounds, ethnicity and cultures which is not the case with many other countries.”

Shimizu said about recent incidents of atrocities against African nationals in the capital city and the role of UNHCR during such incidents, that the lack of knowledge about culture in a different country sometimes creates problems.

“The body keeps advocating with NGOs, police, university students on ground to sensitise people about the backgrounds and cultures refugees come from. It is important to see how individuals react to them in society. There needs to be an atmosphere where one can understand about the exchange of cultures.

“It is not only the legal status that one should look at for refugees in other countries. Support to protect their life is also very important,” she said.