Rohingya in India are illegal immigrants, not refugees, minister says

by Garry Watts September 23, 2017, 0:27
Rohingya in India are illegal immigrants, not refugees, minister says

"Today, we are talking about their human rights", said the minister at a national seminar on good governance, development and human rights organised by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in the capital on Thursday. That is because the Rohingyas are "illegal migrants" in India but "refugees" in Bangladesh, he points out. "I would like to request the International Human Rights Committee and Commissions to not spread anything wrong against India", he told media here.

More than 420,000 members of the Muslim minority have fled Myanmar for the safety of neighbouring Bangladesh.

"India won't be violating any worldwide law by deporting Rohingyas from India, as it isn't a signatory to 1951 UN Refugee Convention", the home minister added.

"Before thinking of human rights of others we need to think of the rights and well-being of Indian citizens and protect those", he added. The government claimed that the continued illegal immigration of Rohingyas to India has "serious national security ramifications and threats". The court will hear the issue on October 3.

Much debate is centred on whether India should offer refuge to the Rohingyas who are facing persecution in their home country - Myanmar.

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Since India is not a signatory to the global pact on refugees, it is not forbidden from returning asylum seekers to a country in which they are likely to face persecution. The affidavit filed by the Home Ministry has estimated the total number of illegal Rohingya immigrants at more than 40,000.

The government said in a statement to the court that the Rohingya are "illegal" immigrants and some of them pose "a very serious and potential threat to the national security of India". In these circumstance it is submitted that the government can not deal with them as illegal immigrants. Almost 15,000 have received refugee documentation, according to the United Nations, but India wants to deport them all. Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar.

The violent attacks allegedly by Myanmarese armymen have led to an exodus of Rohingya tribals from the western Rakhine state in that country to India and Bangladesh.

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for two Rohingya refugees, submitted that NHRC's response be sought in this matter as the independent rights body is already seized of the issue. In the past four weeks, over 420,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, and satellite imagery and heat sensors analysed by Human Rights Watch have shown more than 228 villages burned to the ground in northern Rakhine state.

"In the five or six years that we have been here, we have never felt that we are foreigners here nor have we ever felt any kind of fear", Salimullah told AFP ahead of the case.


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