In September 2020, I started my first deployment with the DRC-UNHCR Resettlement Roster in New Delhi, India. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent international travel restrictions, I was unable to leave for India until mid-February 2021, where I could begin my work in the duty station.
After my arrival, I realized that the COVID-19 situation had indeed imposed more challenges even when I was already in the duty station. India was constantly in lockdown mode and most of the UNHCR staff were working from home. Around April 2021, India was hit by the second coronavirus wave and strict curfew was imposed for two months. It was a very tough and challenging situation for everyone in India. I was working from home but also at home 24/7 and constantly receiving news about the healthcare system being overwhelmed, the rising number of new cases and the death toll in India. The overall situation impacted my mental health and well-being.
Fortunately, I always received support from DRC and UNHCR whenever I needed it. My DRC focal point regularly checked in on me and so did the colleagues here in India. UNHCR also organized sessions on mental health and well-being to ensure that staff’s needs and concerns were being addressed and the necessary support provided. I was further made aware of the psychosocial support available by both DRC and UNHCR. Because of such support which was crucial for me, I was able to concentrate on my work and was able to facilitate resettlement as a durable solution to the refugees who are in a very vulnerable position due to the pandemic crisis.
Regardless of the challenges, I can see that UNHCR and the implementing partners are constantly making huge and effective efforts in ensuring that refugees’ needs are met and their concerns are being addressed, despite the difficult circumstances. The refugee population in India became much more vulnerable during the time of the pandemic. Most of them have lost their livelihoods and it is much more difficult to survive in the country of asylum. Due to that, we continue to ensure that those who have resettlement needs are processed for resettlement in a timely manner. Although in-person interviewing is still not feasible due to the COVID-19 situation, we continue interviewing on remote mode and also continue to ensure integrity is upheld.
As a Resettlement caseworker in Delhi, I have been assigned to work on different caseloads (around 15 nationalities), predominantly refugees from Afghanistan and Myanmar. I have been working on many cases of survivors of violence and/or torture including GBV, women and girls at risk and refugees in detention and/or at risk of deportation.
After working for more than a year in the operation and having developed an in-depth knowledge of the caseload in India, I was able to take on additional tasks. I was entrusted and assigned to deliver a lecture for post-graduate students at the Indian Society of International Law (ISIL). Here, I presented UNHCR’s durable solutions during their ISIL international refugee law class. In addition, I drafted and carried out the presentation for the US delegation of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM) who came to India in November 2021.