A steady influx of Rohingya Muslims into West Bengal via Bangladesh is causing concern to the security establishment. The Rohingyas live in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, which lies northwest of Bangladesh’s Chittagong Division.
A senior intelligence official told The Hindu that “more than one thousand” Rohingya refugees had been detained and sent to prisons in the State in the last six months.
But the West Bengal government has no clear idea of the actual number of the undocumented immigrants who entered the State in the pat few years. On the one hand, the influx is becoming a “security risk” and, on the other, it is snowballing into a major humanitarian crisis, officials agree.
According to a 1983 state-sponsored census (in the then Burma), which was questioned by observers, Rakhine has nearly four million people. Among at least a dozen ethnic groups, Buddhist Rakhines and Muslim Rohingyas are a clear majority and almost equal in number.
Now, after 30 years, with another census coming in another month in Myanmar, which is on the road to democracy, Rohingyas are facing a stark future.
“They are not considered Burmese citizens under the Citizenship Law and hence they are desperately trying to move out of Myanmar as they know they will be victimised,” said a Home Ministry official.
In a massive riot in Rakhine in 2012, tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims were displaced, several people were killed and property was looted. Buddhist Rakhines suffered heavy losses as well.
Myanmar has about 800, 000 stateless Rohingyas, without access to basic healthcare or education.
Since 2013, as the influx of Ronhingyas increased, Bangladesh has closed its door to one of the most “persecuted minorities” in the world, saying they are not Bangladeshis. While earlier it allowed a restricted number to enter the country (about 30,000 registered Rohingyas, supported by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees), Dhaka is not ready to accept any more refugees.
So, sandwiched between the Buddhist-dominated Myanmar and Muslim-dominated Bangladesh, the Rohingyas are entering India via northeast, say officials. But “this is not good news for us,” a senior Home Ministry official said.
The refugees detained under the Foreigners Act, 1946 are now supposed be sent to the Tihar jail in New Delhi as the UNHCR has jurisdiction only in Tihar.
Once they get refugee status, they will be sent to India’s only refugee camp, which is in Jammu.
“But we do not know when that will happen, as it is not easy to send so many people,” said an official at Alipore jail here.