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LTV Procedure for Refugees Expedited in India

NEW DELHI, India, January 16,2016 (UNHCR) - At a time when countries are becoming compassion fatigued to the plight of forcibly displaced people, India stands out opening its doors to those in need of international protection – asylum seekers and refugees.

 

In a commendable effort, the Government of India has decided to expedite the processing of Long-Term Visa (LTV) applications of Rohingya and Afghan refugees. Working extra time on Saturdays, the Foreigner Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) has accepted 800 LTV applications from refugees in just three months and have issued over 98 LTVs to Rohingya refugees as at end December 2015.

 

According to William Tall, Chief of Mission, UNHCR India, “India is generous by keeping its borders open to people who come looking for safety and shelter, and also encourages refugee-friendly policies. A proof of the same is the granting of stay visas to refugees, including access to livelihood. Easing and expediting the visa process is a huge step forward for the protection and safety of refugees in India.”

 

In 2011, the Indian Government had announced the LTV or stay visa facility for refugees. However, due to procedural delays, many were not benefitting from this scheme. Moreover, not all nationalities were able to secure them.

 

In the light of regulating the stay of refugees in India, the FRRO in New Delhi initiated an accelerated procedure in September last year to process the LTVs of refugees registered with UNHCR in India. The FRRO now remains open on second and fourth Saturday of every month to receive and process the applications of Afghan and Rohingya refugees.

 

Mohammad Tahir, a 44-year-old refugee from Myanmar who has been in India for the past 3 years describes the acceleration of the visa procedure as a ‘positive step.’ Feeling overjoyed after getting the LTV within two months of applying, he said, “I had heard of procedural delays for granting the LTV but I was happy to receive mine in just two months and I am grateful to the FRRO.”

 

“I feel very relaxed now as this LTV provides me with legal residency in India and I have also been able to open a bank account using my LTV,” added Tahir, who had come to India in 2014 with his wife and four children and now lives in Shaheen Bagh, Delhi. 

 

The long-term visas issued by the Indian government allow refugees to work in the formal / private sector and enrol in academic institutions.  The LTVs awarded for one year, are renewable for up to five years.

 

Zuber, a Rohingya refugee, obtained his LTV in December last year and is now hopeful of having a more stable and secure life in India. “Usually, without a Government identity card, it becomes a struggle to access services like getting a mobile sim card. With this LTV, I can now look forward to better employment opportunities in the private sector and ensure bread and butter for my family, and I am very grateful. Well done to India and to the FRRO office for being compassionate, understanding and for giving equal opportunities to refugees to survive in this land of opportunities,” said 29-year-old Zuber, who has been staying in India for the past 5 years as a refugee.  

 

By Shuchita Mehta in New Delhi, India

Photo credit: UNHCR/Raghu Rai (Representational Image) 

 

 

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