Government firms up plan to deport Rohingyas

Rohingya refugees during a protest in New Delhi against atrocities in Burma last December.   | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

Days after the United Nations expressed concern over the government’s plans to deport about 40,000 Rohingya immigrants from Myanmar, international human rights agencies Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called upon India to “abide by international legal obligations” and not force them to return, which they termed an “outrageous” move.

“While India is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, it is still bound by customary international law not to forcibly return any refugee to a place where they face a serious risk of persecution or threats to their life or freedom,” a Human Rights Watch said in a statement issued in New York on Wednesday, referring to the international principle of “non-refoulement” adopted by the UN.

“Indian authorities are well aware of the human rights violations Rohingya Muslims have had to face in Myanmar and it would be outrageous to abandon them to their fates,” said an Amnesty International spokesperson, a day after the UN Secretary General’s office had expressed deep concerns over the Indian Home Ministry statement on identifying and deporting Rohingya’s, including about 16,500 who have been registered by the UN High Commission for Refugees in India. The Rohingyas who fled to India after violence in the Western Rakhine state were mainly settled in Jammu, Hyderabad, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR and Rajasthan.

Both the Ministry of External Affairs and Mr. Rijiju did not respond to The Hindu’s request for a comment on the UN Secretary General’s statement of concern.

Despite the appeals, a Home Ministry official told The Hindu that India is going ahead with plans to deport Rohingyas, and is in discussions with Myanmar and Bangladesh government on the issue. The official also said that the government was planning to set up “detention centres” for the refugees, and if required “push them back” over the India-Myanmar border, if Myanmar refuses to accept the refugees back.

Speaking in parliament last week, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju had said that the government has directed states to conduct surveys and prepare to deport them in a “continuous manner”. According to the MHA’s advisory (No. 24013/29/Misc./2017-CSR.III(i)) of August 8th, all state governments were also told that the “powers to identify and deport the foreign nationals staying illegally in the country” had been delegated to them, and that they should “sensitize all law enforcement and intelligence agencies” to the risk from Rohingya’s.

“Infiltration from Rakhine State of Myanmar into Indian territory…besides being burden on the limited resources of the country also aggravates the security challenges posed to the country,” the advisory warned.

The decision by India is in step with the government’s decision to “disassociate itself” from a UN Human Rights Council resolution in March this year proposed by the European Union and the United States to enquire into human rights abuses in Myanmar against the Muslim minority Rohingya community.

“The government should explain why it is walking away from Rohingyas, where India could play a leadership role in resolving the challenging human rights situation which has forced lakhs to leave over the years, especially given India’s track record with Tibetans in the 1950s, Bangladeshis in the 1970s and Sri Lankans in the 1980s, and Afghans in the 1990s,” South Asia Director of Human Rights Watch told The Hindu.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 10:24:59 PM |

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