India sent seven Rohingya Muslim refugees to the border Wednesday to be deported to Myanmar for illegal entry. Around 40,000 Rohingya live in India after fleeing persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar over the years. The seven men deportees had been imprisoned since 2012 in India. Most of the refugees live in the northeastern state of Assam.
The right-wing anti-Muslim BJP government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has described the Rohingya as a threat to national security and asked the Assam government last year to identify and deport them despite the risk to their lives in Myanmar where widespread genocide against the Rohingyas is being committed by Buddhists with state impunity.
The seven men will be handed over to Myanmar authorities Thursday morning local time according to the police in Assam.
They have been sent to a detention camp in another northeastern state of Manipur from where they will be sent to the Myanmar border at Moreh which lies 50 km south of the Indian state of Manipur.
The deportation came after a last-ditch effort by advocate Prashant Bhushan for an urgent public interest litigation (PIL) hearing in the Supreme Court to restrain the government from deporting Rohingya refugees failed.
“It is a routine process. We sent back a Pakistani, an Afghani and 52 Bangladeshis recently,” said Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta, additional Director General of the Border Organisztion of the Assam Police, which deals with detection of foreigners.
Criticizing the move by the government, U.N. Special Rapporteur on racism Tendayi Achiume said in a statement, “Given the ethnic identity of the men, this is a flagrant denial of their right to protection and could amount to refoulement. The Indian government has an international legal obligation to fully acknowledge the institutionalized discrimination, persecution, hate and gross human rights violations these people have faced in their country of origin and provide them the necessary protection.”
The UNHCR had previously sought permission from the Indian government to give detained refugees access to Assam but the government hasn't allowed that so far.
According to the Indian daily Hindustan Times, an intelligence report states that there are about 32 Rohingya refugees in detention camps in Assam including 15 minors.
Last week, the central government asked all authorities to take biometric details from Rohingya refugees and other illegal immigrants living in the country. “The presence of Rohingya is confined not only to the northeastern states. They have reached south Indian states including Kerala,” Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had recently said, calling all Rohingya in India “illegal immigrants.”
In July, the state of Assam saw a National Register of Citizens (NRC) survey where all citizens of Assam had to register their names and show documents to prove their citizenship. This resulted in the risk of almost four million Assamese, who are mostly Muslim, losing their citizenship. The center validated this crisis as an attempt to identify “illegal” Bangladeshis and Rohingyas.
"If these Rohingyas and Bangladeshi illegal immigrants do not leave India respectfully, then they should be shot and eliminated," said Raja Singh, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of the Telangana Legislative Assembly in the South of India. "Only then will our country be safe. ... How is it right to keep foreigners in our country? There is no need to keep these pests in our country," the ANI News Agency reported.