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Supreme Court Issues Notice On PIL Seeking To Ensure Food Security For Refugees & Asylum Seekers

Mehal Jain
29 Nov 2021 10:11 AM GMT
Supreme Court Issues Notice On  PIL Seeking To Ensure Food Security For Refugees & Asylum Seekers
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The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre and several states on the PIL seeking to ensure food security for all refugees and asylum seekers, including the communities of Chin Burmese, the Afghans, the Rohingya, the Iraqi and those from Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Palestine and Cameroon.The bench of Justices D. Y. Chandrachud and A. S. Bopanna was hearing the petition by...

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The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre and several states on the PIL seeking to ensure food security for all refugees and asylum seekers, including the communities of Chin Burmese, the Afghans, the Rohingya, the Iraqi and those from Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Palestine and Cameroon.

The bench of Justices D. Y. Chandrachud and A. S. Bopanna was hearing the petition by advocate Faizal Abdali who told the Court that while Article 21 protects the right of refugees, they were forced to become rag pickers etc during the pandemic and there were no government schemes for them during the pandemic.
When Justice Chandrachud asked if the plea extends beyond the pandemic, Advocate-on-Record Amiy Shukla replied in the assertive, stating that refugees are entitled under the Food Security Act.
"The present economic downturn resulting from the covid crisis has precipitated the food insecurity being faced by refugees and asylum seekers, and the failure by the state authorities to take steps to ameliorate them will have crippling consequences for the refugee population. According to the UNHCR factsheet dated 31.01.2020, there are 2,10,201 refugees and asylum seekers residing in India. There are 203,235 refugees from Sri Lanka and Tibet, and 40,859 refugees and asylum seekers of other nationalities are registered under UNHCR's mandate. There are around 2000 refugees who are not registered with UNHCR as the registration process has been gravely affected due to the COVID19. The Petitioner has tried to collect the data of the number of refugees and asylum seekers which are residing in different settlements across states such as NCT of Delhi, Haryana, Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, Manipur and Mizoram", avers the petition.
"There are more than 17,000 refugees and asylum seekers residing in the settlements on the private land as well as the rented accomodations. The conditions in the settlements are deplorable and there are ever-present health challenges like lack of sanitation, no proper toilets, shortage of drinking water, etc. even during the best of times, for the residents of these settlements. This unprecedented pandemic exacerbates the health challenges the residents already face", it is urged.
The plea seeks the following relief-
a. to provide free dry rations to all the refugees and asylum seekers who are registered with the UNHCR, India without any requirement of Ration card, Aadhar card or any other documentation.
b. For an order to all the respondents to ensure that three free nutritious cooked meals thrice a day, through community kitchens are provided to refugees and asylum seekers at locations
c. For an order to all the respondents to ensure that the entitlements mandated by the National Food Security Act, 2013 are provided to all refugees and asylum seekers, pregnant and lactating women members of their families as well as all children in compliance to the provisions of Sections 3, 4,5, 6 and 8 of the National Food Security Act, 2013 as well as in conformity with the nutritional standards stipulated in Schedule II of the Act through the existing network of PDS shops, Anganwadis and Schools,
d. For an order to the respondent States and U.T.s to appoint Nodal Officer to whom the refugees and asylum seekers can reach out to in case of non-availability to basic amenities and to report to this Hon'ble Court from time to time,
e. For an order extending the reliefs set out above to all yet to be registered (unregistered) refugees and asylum seekers including the new entrants from Myanmar on account of conflict in that region.
As regards the Rohingyas, the plea states that There are 721 Rohingya residing in the State of Delhi. The Rohingyas are residing in two settlements i.e. Sharam Vihar settlement, Sharam Vihar, Shaheen Bagh, Okhla, New Delhi -110025 and Madanpur Khadar Rohingya settlement, Kanchan Kunj, Near Kalindi Kunj Metro Station, New Delhi and others are residing in the rented accommodations in Khajuri Khas, Delhi and Vikaspuri, New Delhi.
As per the information collected by the petitioner, 96 Rohingya families comprising approximately 402 individuals are residing in the Sharam Vihar settlement. Also, 57 Rohingya families, comprising approximately 257 persons, are residing in the Madanpur Khadar Rohingya settlement. Both of these settlements have majorly children, women and elders who are especially vulnerable to the pandemic.
"The settlements are in cramped conditions, making the residents especially vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. The water in these areas is highly contaminated and has high iron which makes it undrinkable. There have been several reports in the past of various critical health conditions because of the intake of groundwater. The water tanker used to visit these areas, however, there has been no supply of clean drinking water since the announcement of the lockdown by the Delhi government. Even before the lockdown, the supply of clean drinking water tankers was very irregular. In 2021, the re-imposition of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 implied a complete loss of livelihood for all of them as there is no plying of rickshaws, no demand for manual labour - which are the occupations where most Rohingyas worked. It has affected them even worse as now they have no savings left and neither has the government provided them any support. Usman reported that the community is surviving on the little charity they have recently received, but very soon these will get over, and the community members do not know how they will survive post that. Further, most of the Rohingya work as daily wagers and the lockdown has affected their livelihood. It has resulted in a near-famine state for most of the Rohingya families as they have no source of income and documents to avail government services. In 2020, when the lockdown was first declared by the Central Government, due to no ration assistance, the Rohingya ate from their own pockets for a few months, thus depleting their meagre savings", it is submitted

Case Title: Fazal Abdali v. UOI |W.P.(C) No. 660/2021

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