India to deport all Rohingyas: Rijiju

Minister says UNHCR registration irrelevant; Centre in talks with Myanmar

All of an estimated 40,000 Rohingya Muslims living in India are illegal immigrants, even those registered with the UN refugee agency, and the government aims to deport them, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju has said.

Mr. Rijiju told Parliament last week that the Central government had directed State authorities to identify and deport illegal immigrants, including Rohingyas, who face persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

Preventing harassment

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has issued identity cards to about 16,500 Rohingyas in India that it says help them “prevent harassment, arbitrary arrests, detention and deportation”.

But Mr. Rijiju said in an interview on the weekend that the UNHCR registration was irrelevant.

“They are doing it, we can’t stop them from registering. But we are not signatory to the accord on refugees,” he said.

The treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar has emerged as a highly contentious human rights issue.

“As far as we are concerned, they are all illegal immigrants. They have no basis to live here. Anybody who is an illegal migrant will be deported,” Mr. Rijiju added.

The UNHCR’s India office said on Monday that the principle of non-refoulement — or not sending back refugees to a place where they face danger — was considered part of a customary international law and binding on all States, whether they had signed the Refugee Convention or not.

‘No official word’

The office said it had not received any official word about a plan to deport Rohingya refugees, and had not got any reports that deportations were taking place.

The Rohingyas are denied citizenship in Myanmar and classified as illegal immigrants, despite claiming roots there that go back centuries, with communities marginalised and occasionally subjected to communal violence.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have fled from Myanmar, with many taking refuge in Bangladesh and India. Many have also headed to south-east Asia, often on rickety boats run by people-smuggling gangs.

Anti-Rohingya protests

Rohingyas are generally vilified in India and over the past few months, there has been a string of anti-Rohingya protests.

Mr. Rijiju declined to comment on the deportation process, even as some human rights activists questioned the practicality of expelling thousands of people scattered across the country.

“There’s a procedure, there is a rule of law. We can’t throw them out just like that. We can’t dump them in the Bay of Bengal,” Mr. Rijiju said.

India said it was in talks with Bangladesh and Myanmar about the deportation plan. But deportation is likely to be difficult, given Myanmar’s position that all Rohingyas need to be scrutinised before they can be allowed back in as citizens.

Myanmar officials were not available for comment.

A senior government official in Bangladesh, which has complained of being burdened by the heavy flow of refugees, said India was helping it solve the crisis.

More than 75,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh since October 9 after an insurgent group attacked Myanmar border police posts, prompting a security crackdown in which troops were accused of murder and rape of Rohingya civilians.

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2020 2:50:06 AM |

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