Don't want India to become the refugee capital of the world, govt. tells SC

File photo of Rohingya refugees   | Photo Credit: AP

The Union government told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it does not want the country to become the refugee capital of the world.

The government was responding to a submission made by Rohingya refugees that the Border Security Force was "pushing back" their compatriots, fleeing persecution in native Myanmar, at the borders with chilli spray and stun grenades.

"We do not want India to become the refugee capital of the world. People from every other country will flood our country," Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.

He submitted the government is in talks and should be allowed to take a decision. There was no contingency as of now and this was not a matter for the court to intervene.

Mr. Mehta said he needed time to respond to the allegations made by the refugees, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, about being driven back from the border.

The court gave him time till March 7, the next date of the hearing.

At one point, Mr. Mehta said the government was "constitutionally obliged" to decide the Rohingya issue. He also submitted that "this is not a matter in which we can show any leniency".

Mr. Bhushan submitted that welcoming refugees who have fled persecution, with violence, was against India's international and humanitarian commitments.

Mr. Bhushan pointed out that Rohingya refugees in camps in India live in abject poverty and squalor. "The conditions are inhuman. There is no access to either schools or hospitals," he said.

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud observed that the court did acknowledge the humanitarian aspects in Mr. Bhushan's submissions, but asked if judicial standards of India, which applied to refugees already living on Indian soil, also apply to those attempting to enter the country

"Somebody comes to your border and says 'I am a refugee'. It has to be determined whether he is a refugee. He cannot be blindly pushed back... then what is the commitment of India to refugee determination? Several high courts have upheld the right to refugee determination. Let the government deal with it diplomatically, but this court should also decide on its own," senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, an intervenor, responded.

'We cannot push them back to the jaws of death'

Senior advocate Ashwini Kumar, also for the refugees, said "minimum humanitarian morality" should be shown to the refugees at the border.

"We cannot push them back to the jaws of death. You cannot deny a man his right to life. The Supreme Court has to intervene as the ultimate protector of life," he submitted.

Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, for National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), submitted that the issue of how to deal with refugees trying to enter at the border should be diplomatically resolved.

The court has said it would want to balance national interests with humanitarian concern about the refugees.

The court is hearing a bunch of petitions, one filed by persons within the Rohingya community, against a proposed move to deport over 40,000 Rohingyas.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2021 3:04:11 PM |

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