Act as per law against Myanmar asylum-seekers, HC tells police

A day after the DDA wrote to the Delhi Police to jointly conduct a "squatters' removal programme" at the Sultangarhi monument near Vasant Kunj, around 2,200 asylum seekers from Myanmar living there were asked to evacuate the area on Tuesday.

The refugees have been camping near the 13th-century protected monument hoping to get a "plot of land" and other benefits in the Capital.

The action was after the Delhi High Court on Monday turned down a request for "compassionate indulgence" in the matter and asked the police to take action as prescribed under the law.

A bench headed by Acting Chief Justice A K Sikri underlined that the Myanmar refugees were in India for almost two years now and have been waiting for legal "refugee" status given by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Standing counsel for Delhi government Najmi Waziri informed the court that it was not like that the asylum-seekers had come to India recently, but had travelled to Delhi from across the country on the basis of an "unofficial rumour" that they would be getting plots of land here, besides several other benefits.

"The matter, however, involves questions of utmost sensitivity, keeping in view their legal status in this country, their conditions and the kind of agitations. There are intelligence reports indicating the matter must be tactfully handled," said Waziri as he produced all the reports in the court. After going through the documents, the court noted that most of these refugees did not even have the temporary refugee cards allotted to them by the UNHCR and had come to the city on the basis of "certain unsubstantiated reports".

"We fail to understand how this court can interfere in such a situation. It is not like they have come to India just now and are demanding a refugee status.... It is not Delhi's problems... police and authorities should have the liberty to do whatever is prescribed under the law," the court said. The case to ascertain the legal status of these refugees will now be heard on Wednesday.

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