What is the Future of Afghan Refugees in India?

International Sep 26, 2021

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Afghan nationals first migrated to India during the Soviet war in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Most of them continued to live in the country on long-term visas provided by the Indian government, as they were not granted citizenship. Now, almost after two decades, the Taliban has seized back control of the country, which has surged the refugee crisis.

According to the UN(United Nations), over 2.2  million Afghan refugees are already in neighboring countries like Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, etc; and over 3.5 million people are forcibly displaced within the borders of Afghanistan. India has over 15,100 Afghan refugees as per the current stats given by UNHCR(United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

Apart from the terror and orthodox rule of the Taliban, Afghan refugees are precarious about their future in India. Afghan refugees in India lack access to basic facilities such as SIM cards and gas cylinders for cooking, as they do not have citizenship. Apart from this, the CAA(Citizenship Amendment Act) provides Indian citizenship to persecuted religious minorities that include Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jain, Parsis, or Christians from neighboring countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan but does not grant such eligibility to Muslims from the above-mentioned countries, making it nearly impossible for  Afghan refugees to attain citizenship as the majority of them are Muslims. Besides, India does not permit dual citizenship.

The Precarious future and  state of  limbo

According to India’s Ministry of Home Affairs,  those who are trying to attain citizenship will have to prove that they have been in India on or before December 31, 2014, which is impossible for the refugees who entered India in the last few years to escape Taliban rule. Most of the refugees who flee Afghanistan belong to the middle-class strata; for them, the daily expenses in Delhi are manageable unlike the expenses they would have to bear in European cities, but the struggle does not end here. They cannot work in formal settings as they do not have Indian citizenship, so they work as daily wage labors. The academic future of their children is not safe as they cannot be admitted to any schools in India due to their refugee status; and even if they get into schools run by the Afghan embassy, they might face trouble getting a job which would leave them unemployed. Afghan refugees prefer staying in India to settling down in the west as India being a ‘Transit place’ helps them to shift to the west but what’s worse is that they  do not have proper means and contacts that would help them to move from India to settle down in the west.

This article has been written by Anisha Aravind for The Paradigm.

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