Refugees protest UNHCR decision to cut allowance

Kathmandu, January 8:

Over 200 urban refugees and asylum-seekers are staging a demonstration at the gate of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kathmandu against the world refugee agency’s decision to reduce subsistence allowance from Rs 4,500 to Rs 2,200 to each recognised refugee.

“We are sitting here because the UNHCR is cutting the allowance, that is not enough,” said a seven-year-old Ethiopian boy, Henok Tarfech, who has been in Kathmandu for the past eight months. The UNHCR has not yet recognised him as a refugee.

Tarfech is here with his parents to “go to America”, but does not know why, when and how will they get there.

Sulekha Ahmed, a 17-year-old Somalian girl, is also staging a demonstration with a group of six single mothers from Somalia.

“Their husbands died in the Somali conflict. I am here with them to go somewhere, where we are safe. We are not safe in Somalia because we are a minority there,” said the girl.

According to the Asylum Seekers Together (AST), an organisation supporting single mothers, 22 of the total 150 children — refugees and asylum seekers — are participating in the demonstration.