(MENAFN- Pajhwok Afghan News)
KABUL (Pajhwok): Afghan refugees living in India are unhappy with what they call 'expensive' consular services of the Afghan Embassy and claim they are in trouble due to non-issuance of visas to them by the Indian government.
However, the Afghan Embassy in New Delhi says its affairs are going smoothly and is trying to solve the problems of Afghan refugees.
A number of Afghan refugees in India say the Afghanistan embassy charges high fees for consular services and has reduced working days of its staff and also does not issue new passports.
But the embassy says its service charges are the cheapest and appropriate and the lack of passports is a general issue.
The mission says its staff works on all business days, but three days in a week are dedicated to collecting documents and information from clients.
Zakirullah Tasal, an Afghan refugee in India, told Pajhwok Afghan News that the Afghan embassy had no contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan and had sacked most of its staff.
He said the embassy now charged high fees for consular services in order to meet its expenses.
He said the Afghan embassy charged US$10 for each stamp and US$75 for a five-year passport extension through a sticker while the previous price of a passport extension was US$20.
Tasal said after the regime change in Afghanistan in August 2021, the Afghan embassy in India had not issued passports to anyone while the passports of some Afghan refugees had been lost or burned.
“In India, an Afghan refugee cannot rent a house without a passport, he is not allowed to spend the night in a hotel, and is deprived of many other facilities”.
Afghan Students' Association in India president Wali Rahman Rahmani also said Afghan students faced problems in renewing their passports. He said students who had renewed their passports on stickers could not travel to other countries.
However, Afghanistan's ambassador to India Farid Mamondzai told Pajhwok that the embassy had been focusing mostly on consular services since the political change in Afghanistan because these services were directly related to the life and daily legal affairs of the people, especially the refugees, students, businessmen and other Afghans living in India.
He said they had never closed the door of consular services to clients, but had changed the work shifts due to the reduction in the number of employees.
He said they had dedicated three days a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) to collecting documents and information from the clients and the documents were processed during the rest of the days.
“The consular services are executed as per the procedure and mechanism of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. All legal and official proceedings of the consular services are recorded and submitted to the archives. No one charges and can charge fees against the rules and regulations.”
He said the price of the annual renewal of the passport was $20, which he called appropriate and principled.
Mamondzai rejected some Afghan refugees' claim about high fees for consular services as incorrect, saying the services were easy, cheap and more accessible than ever.
He said the lack of new passports was a general issue and the Afghan Embassy in India had so far not received its required quota of passports.
He said:“The Dubai consulate in our printing house and our quota should be sent there. We register all the data and process it and the passport is printed at the Afghan consulate in Dubai and then sent to our embassy.”
He said since the issue of new passports remained unresolved, they issued temporary travel documents to people whose passports had been lost or burned to meet their urgent needs.
“But we assure those who need it that we have contacted the center and we are assured that the quota related to India will be sent to the relevant clients”.
He urged Afghan refugees who needed new passports to be patient as the embassy was trying to solve this problem.
Stranded Afghan students seek India visa
India visa policy towards Afghanistan since regime change in the country in August 2021 put most Afghans in trouble while Afghan diplomatic mission in New Dheli said efforts were made to resolve the problem but it produced no result.
Zakirullah Tasal, an Afghan national in India said Afghan students, businesspersons and patients in India faced serious problems when it comes to traveling to Afghanistan or India.
Tasal said:“Indian Embassy in Kabul had no visa related function and after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan takeover, India did not issue visa to any Afghan and some Afghans who already had visa were sent visa cancelation e-mails therefore these individuals could not travel and remained stranded.”
He said at least 3,000 Afghans were busy studying in different Indian universities, they went to Afghanistan in their vocations and due to the non-availability of visa they could not return to join their studies.
He said Afghans living in India gets extension in their visa and they were allowed to travel to Afghanistan but could not return back to India.
Waliurrahman Rahmani, Afghan Students Union head in India, said in 2019, 14,000 Afghans were busy studying in different Indian Universities but after the completion of their studies most had returned to Afghanistan or other nations.
He said currently, around 3,000 Afghans were busy studying in different Indian universities. Some of these students traveled to Afghanistan for vocations and not unable to return.
He said they shared the issue with Afghan Embassy in New Dheli and Indian authorities but their efforts yield no outcome.
Rahimullah Safi, one of Afghan students, said students like him could not go to Afghanistan as well as could not invite their families to India.
Safi is the student of master degree in law.
Hikmatullah Ibrahimi, is one of the Afghan students who is not in Afghanistan and could not go to Indian to continue his studies.
Ibrahimi said he came to Afghanistan weeks before the fall of previous government. Hikmatullah had visa but later he received an e-mail from the Indian authorities regarding the cancelation of his visa.
He said now he had to go to India to get his diploma.
Afghan Ambassador in India Mamondzai said:“We are in contact with all students whose visas had been expired. It is in fact a critical. We are in contact with the Indian foreign ministry, security officials and other relevant authorities since the fall of regime in Kabul, we held meetings, sent official e-mails regarding the issue faced by Afghan students. We asked them to introduce a special mechanism on the bases of which stranded students would be able to return and join their studies.”
He said Afghan embassy efforts yield no result and only few PHD students were able to obtain visa.
Mamondzai said:“We continue our efforts and remained in touch with Indian authorities to introduce a mechanism on the bases of which Afghan students could return or find an alternative way. We also informed political leaders in the country regarding the issue because such issue could harm relations between the two countries.”
Mamundzai said Afghans with visas could freely travel to a third country without any legal impediment.
He explained non-issuance of visas was a problem for the Afghan students returning to India, which had lately changed its policy.
Lack of work visa for Afghans
Some Afghans in India complain they are not granted work visas despite completing their studies. The visa denial has caused them problems, they say.
On the other hand, the Afghan embassy in New Delhi says it has shared a proposal with Indian authorities on how to address the problem.
Zakirullah Tasal, an Afghan refugee in India, said:“The Afghans having graduated from universities are not allowed to work in India. They do not have work visas.”
Another refugee Rahimullah Safi also said the Afghans living in India were not granted work visas.
He added some Afghan students in India had their education visas extended, but were refused work permits - a major problem.
Rahimullah added that some Afghans who did not want to go back to their homeland for various problems were neither allowed to work in India, nor permitted to visit other countries.
The Afghan ambassador says every country had its own labour laws and the embassy of Afghanistan had been in touch with the Indian government for the past one and half year on jobs Afghan students who were qualified to work for private entities.
“But the Indian work visa is difficult not only for Afghans but also for citizens of many other countries. We have also presented proposals to the Indian government in this regard.”
He elaborated the refugees had no problems going back to Afghanistan, if they desired to do so. But they opt for staying in India of their own free will - it is their personal decision and they should accept it.
Solution be found to refugees' issues
Zahid Amarkhel, an international affairs expert, told Pajhwok everyone had the right to migrate from one country to another and lead a comfortable life.
According to him, India is one of the countries where a number of Afghans are living. In line with international human rights norms, the Indian government should pay attention to the rights of Afghan refugees and solve their problems accordingly.
“If there is a visa, passport or other problem, the caretaker government is responsible, both at the state level and through diplomatic channels. When a person has the right to live in another country, he/she also reserves all other rights,” he argued.
Amarkhel believed it was the responsibility of both countries to find a solution to the problems of Afghan refugees in India.
Pajhwok shared the issue with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul The ministry, however, is yet to respond.