Union Home Ministry overrules Housing Minister’s tweet on providing flats to Rohingya

Denial comes after Hardeep Puri announces shifting them to an apartment complex

August 17, 2022 01:47 pm | Updated August 18, 2022 09:12 am IST - NEW DELHI

The Rohingya colony near Kalindi Kunj in New Delhi on August 17, 2022.

The Rohingya colony near Kalindi Kunj in New Delhi on August 17, 2022. | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

Hours after Minister for Urban Development Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted that all Rohingya migrants from Myanmar living in a camp in Delhi will be shifted to flats, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued a strong denial.

The Ministry also said that it had issued orders that the shanty town where the Rohingya were now living in be designated a “detention centre”, pending the deportation of all of the hundreds of people living there.

In his tweet on Wednesday morning, Mr. Puri called the plans to move the Rohingya to an apartment complex built for economically weaker sections (EWS), a “landmark decision” by the Narendra Modi government.

“In a landmark decision, all Rohingya refugees will be shifted to EWS flats in Bakkarwala area of Delhi. They will be provided basic amenities, UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees) IDs & round-the-clock Delhi Police protection,” Mr. Puri tweeted, adding that India had always welcomed refugees.

Stokes criticism

After a storm of criticism from groups such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Home Ministry denied any such plan had been cleared by the Centre, and also blamed the Delhi government for the proposal to move the Rohingya “illegal foreigners”, indicating it was not responsible for the decision.

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In its response, the MHA said it “has not given any directions to provide EWS flats to Rohingya at Bakkarwala in New Delhi”. “The MHA has directed the government of Delhi to ensure that the Rohingya illegal foreigners will continue at the present location,” referring to the shanty town in Delhi’s Madanpur area where the Rohingya currently reside, adding that the “MHA has already taken up the matter of deportation of illegal foreigners with the country concerned through the Ministry of External Affairs [MEA].”

The MEA declined to comment on the issue.

Mr. Puri later tweeted that the MHA’s position was “correct”, but didn’t explain or delete his previous tweets making the announcement at the time of going to press.

Directive to Delhi govt

The Home Ministry also said that it had directed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government of Delhi to declare the Madanpur Rohingya area a “detention centre” immediately, which it has not done so far.

In response, AAP’s local MLA and spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj told The Hindu that declaring detention centres was the responsibility of the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO), which is under the MHA. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the Rohingya camp is at present built on land donated by the Zakat Foundation of India, after a previous camp was destroyed in a fire.

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Earlier, addressing a press conference, Mr. Bharadwaj said he had accessed the file notings of a meeting conducted by the Ministry of Home Affairs on August 2 that was attended by Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar, FRRO officials and the Delhi Police. The note made it clear that the MHA wanted to bypass the elected government of Delhi and provide housing to illegal immigrants by keeping only the Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) in the loop while taking the decision, he said.

“Why should we create detention centres for Rohingya at the expense of Delhi taxpayers? They should be deported [and] we have been saying that they are a security threat,” Mr. Bharadwaj added.

Since the Rohingya live in temporary shelters made of bamboo and plastic sheets, it was also not clear how the open spaces will be designated as detention centres, and Rohingya movements restricted.

“Will they confine us to our rooms? Will they stop our education and stop us from making a living?” asked 20-year-old Miza, a Rohingya resident of the Madanpur Khada camp, who fled to India in 2012 due to ethnic violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. She added that India is now her home, and that she dreads returning to Myanmar.

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