UNHCR meets Pakistani prisoners in India

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New Delhi: Representatives from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees visited Tihar Prisons to decide the case of 65 Pakistani prisoners belonging to a Muslim sect, banned in that country, who have sought asylum in India.

62 Pakistani`s belonging to Gowhar Shahi sect, banned by Pakistan government, have been under detention in Tihar Jail since April 23, 2007, after they staged a demonstration here seeking asylum in India on the ground that their life was at risk in Pakistan.

"Three investigators from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are meeting the 55 Pakistani prisoners lodged in our prisons to decide the case to give them refugee status," Sunil Gupta, Tihar spokesperson and Law Officer, said.

Refusing to return to their homeland, they had during their protests burnt the Pakistani flag, their passports and visa papers. They were subsequently arrested for having no travel documents and, therefore, being in India illegally.

During their detention, the number grew to 65 as some of the ladies among the demonstrators were pregnant and gave birth to children.

In the year 2008, they had moved the Delhi High Court pleading that the Indian authorities be restrained from deporting them back and they be granted refugee status.

Hearing their plea, the Delhi High Court had asked the government to obtain clarification from UNHCR on the process of granting asylum.

On December 2, 2010, the High Court in its order said, "the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is directed to hear and dispose of the appeal filed by the petitioner, which is pending before it, dated 20/2/2005 within a period of one month from the date of receipt of this order by it. For the said period of one month and two weeks thereafter, the residents shall not deport the petitioner."

Gupta said "the representatives of the UNHCR are meeting with each prisoner individually and talking to them in detail as to why they do not want to go back to Pakistan and what happened with them there."

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