Afghan, Rohingya refugees struggle to find work in Delhi

Afghan, Rohingya refugees struggle to find work in Delhi

Sepember 16, 2014: Formerly a journalist, an Afghan refugee in Delhi puts an Afghani roti on a chop board, gingerly places slices of marinated chicken, onion and tomato, and completes an Afghani wrap with French fries and garlic sauce with unpractised hands.
Mateen, who fled his country when his journalistic freedom became hostage to the Taliban, owns a roadside fast-food stall, called Kabul Burger, written in Dari script. Mateen, 40, lives with his mother, wife and two children at Bhogal.
As if the Taliban threat was not enough, a host of livelihood issues has bedevilled him. His earnings of Rs 5,000-7,000 do not fulfil his family’s basic necessities.

Mateen is not a one-off case as most refugees in India have to struggle to earn a livelihood.
Hasibullah Sakhizada, who drew the Taliban’s ire as he worked for a US-based mining company in Afghanistan, was refused jobs by Indian restaurants as he neither had an UNHCR-issued I-card and nor requisite experience. “Though I managed to get work for three months, the wages (Rs 5,000-6,000) were not enough to pay for my family’s expenses,” Hasibullah, who has two sisters to support, says glumly.

Afghan refugees, mostly, work in restaurants and, in few cases, own small stalls selling snacks, fruit juice and Afghani rotis, while others are interpreters for hospitals. Most refugees work in informal sector and are underpaid. They also complain of exploitation by the contractors and factories.

A beguiling middleman with two underlings breezes into Madanpur Khadar to persuade Rohingyas to rejoin work. Rohingya youths, sitting under a thatched roof, listen to the middleman’s cajoling filibuster with disdain. “How can we work for the contractor who has been dilly-dallying on our wages and has not paid 15 days wages?” vowed the dejected youth.
“You (Rohingyas) have mouths to feed. Sitting idle will not fetch anything,” the middleman, from Jamia Nagar, prophesied with a wily smirk. Mostly, Rohingyas work as daily-wage labourers, rag-pickers and vendors.
“We are being denied our wages by contractors and factories. They hire us, but they pay either half of promised wages or don’t pay at all,” rues a Rohingya, who has worked for 15 days without pay and the contractor slapped theft charges against him when he became too vocal regarding his much-deserved pay.

A tin factory in Madanpur Khadar also refused to pay a month’s wage to Muhammad Ali, who is handicapped. “Notwithstanding my persistent efforts, I could not secure my money. When I pushed the envelop, they threatened me with dire consequences.”
At Madanpur Khadar in Delhi, around 50 Rohingya families are huddled in a low-lying sumpy slum, an insalubrious dwelling whose rear is slushy and breeds mosquitoes. The perilously shaky units, hogged by flies in every corner, are covered by tarps atop and propped by bamboos. Cramped isles dotted with puddles, gaunt women, emaciated babies, bleary eyes and pallid faces are some of the bleak images of the locality.

On terrorism front, Rohingyas deny any link with radical groups and blame the Myanmar government for poisoning India’s ears. “A national newspaper published a baseless story on a joint Rohingyas-ISI plot against India. Similar aspersions were cast against my community during the Bodh Gaya blast. The investigation has found out the culprits are not Rohingyas. We can’t think of anything sinister against India, but food, job, education and health,” protests a Rohingya.

Notwithstanding “crisis-driven” attitude of India, some Muslim organisations have lent a helping hand to Rohingyas and Afghans. A case in point is the small patch of land which has temporarily been given to Myanmar Muslims in Madanpur Khadar by Zakaat Foundation, a Delhi-based NGO. However, the refugees protest intermittent bouts of eviction as the land is meant for an orphanage.
Similar religious and community organisations are lending a helping hand in Hyderabad and Rajasthan for the resettlement and rehabilitation of the refugees.



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