They live with the trauma of disease, displacement

Thirty-seven-year old Muneer writhes in pain living in a single room tenement in the middle-class Tolichowki area west of the city. He suspects it to be a gastroenterological disease but has no money for diagnosing it, leave alone treatment.

Ten years after he came to India from trouble-torn Iraq, he somehow managed to complete his M.Sc. (IT) from Sikkim Manipal University in 2004 and for the last seven years has been in search of a job. Every time he makes it to the final round of an interview, he misses the bus for he is a refugee and has no work permit. He wonders why he is denied a job here when thousands of Indians get them in other countries.

With no job and the monthly subsistence allowance given by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) drying up in February 2009, he finds it difficult to survive and had even contemplated suicide unable to cope with the trauma of disease and displacement.

At the other end, south of the old city, Hafeez Baba Nagar, the plight of Nur Hussein, asylum-seeker (a stage preceding the status of refugee) from Myanmar is no different. Escaping from Myanmar's oppressive military regime, with his wife and three daughters, Hussein slogs as a labourer in a slaughterhouse in Ziaguda earning Rs. 200 a day and lives in abominable conditions in a dingy room.

After arriving in the city in 2008, he worked as ‘muezzin' in Kishan Bagh for sometime, before he was detained by the Bahadurpura police for illegal stay. He was released after he convinced the police that his application for refugee status was pending with the UNHCR office in New Delhi.

Not many are aware but there are 469 refugees and 109 asylum-seekers in Hyderabad who are registered with UNHCR, Delhi. They hail from strife-torn countries as diverse as Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Mynamar and Afghanistan. In city, Mehdipatnam has the largest of 166, followed by Tolichowki (66), Asif Nagar (55), Masab Tank (21), Malakpet (20), and other localities.

The predicament of refugees living in Hyderabad and elsewhere was shared by the UNHCR's associate external relations officer Nayana Bose and Confederation of Voluntary Association's executive director Mazhar Hussain at an orientation programme for media on September 9. Ms. Bose explained the process of determining refugee status and problems faced by refugees in getting jobs and access to higher education.

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