Tough times follow Afghan refugees fleeing Taliban to Delhi

AfghanistanOne of the major problems that they face is lack of work permit.AP

Sharifa Jan fled Afghanistan for India last year when the Taliban killed her husband and threatened her six children. New Delhi's chaos baffled her but the city also provided a safe haven. But like thousands of other Afghan refugees and asylum seekers in India her security comes at a price: Jan's family is trapped in limbo. The Afghans don't have work permits. Many have trouble enrolling their children in school. They can't even get a local phone. ``If today there is no education, no good food and drink, no good living conditions, then what will they become in the future?'' Jan, 40, said of her children. ``They won't become anything.''

With their blue United Nations refugee cards, the Afghans do little more than just survive. The Afghan refugees `'need help and more attention,'' said M. Ashraf Haidari, deputy chief of mission of the Afghan embassy in India. Sayeed Habib Hadat, who has degrees in English and information technology, survives by working informally as a translator at pharmacies for Afghan patients.

``We just solved one of our problems, that is, our lives are saved. But here are a lot more problems,'' said Hadat, 28, who fled Afghanistan last year. His family has applied for resettlement in Australia in hopes they can finally start building their future. Australia recently vowed to resettle all refugees who arrive in the country by boat on the island nation of Papua New Guinea. The move is seen as a way to deter an increasing number of asylum seekers. Afghanistan is among the largest sources of asylum seekers reaching Australia.

There were more than 18,000 Afghan refugees in India as of December 2011, according to the foreign ministry. It is unclear how many more unregistered Afghans are living here. Last year the largest number of refugees worldwide - 2.6 million in 82 countries - were from Afghanistan, according to a report released by the United Nations in June. Afghanistan has been the main source of refugees for over three decades with numbers fluctuating from 500,000 in 1979 to more than 6.3 million at the peak of the conflict in 1990. Ninety-five percent of Afghan refugees are in Pakistan and Iran, where many of them live in squalid camps.

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