Rohingya crisis: Centre and NHRC on opposite sides of refugee question

Written by Rahul Tripathi
| New Delhi |
Updated: September 22, 2017 7:49 am

Myanmar, Rohingy refugees, Rohingya Muslims, Rajnath Singh, India Rohingya refugee, India news, Indian ExpressMyanmar, Rohingy refugees, Rohingya Muslims, Rajnath Singh, India Rohingya refugee, India news, Indian Express Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh (PTI Photo/File)

The Union Home Minister and the National Human Rights Commission chairman expressed opposite views on the Rohingya crisis Thursday, with Rajnath Singh describing the refugees as “illegal immigrants” who will be deported and Justice (retd) H L Dattu saying that their cause will be taken up on “humanitarian grounds”.

Speaking at a two-day NHRC seminar, Singh said, “The Rohingya are not refugees. They have not come here after following proper procedures. No Rohingya has applied for asylum. They are illegal immigrants. The Home Ministry has clarified its position through its affidavit in the Supreme Court that these are illegal immigrants, and they will be deported.”

Later, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the seminar, Dattu said, “We are taking up the case of Rohingya on humanitarian grounds. They are being persecuted in Myanmar and we will plead their case but we cannot comment on the government’s policy.”

The NHRC had recently issued a notice to the Centre over its plan to deport Rohingya refugees staying in various parts of India. At Thursday’s seminar, the Home Minister asked why objections were being raised over the deportation of Rohingya when Myanmar was ready to accept them. “We have to think about the human rights of our own people before talking about the human rights of people from other countries… India will not violate any international law by deporting the Rohingya as it was not a signatory to the UN Refugees Convention 1951,” said Singh.

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Any sovereign country was free to take a decision on what kind of action it should take against illegal immigrants, he said. “Illegal immigration poses a threat to our national security. We should understand this,” Singh said. Referring to Myanmar state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s statement Tuesday that her country would resettle some of the refugees, Singh said, “I am sure Myanmar will adopt positive steps to take back the Rohingya.”

On the government’s decision to deport “illegal migrants”, Singh said, “People talk about non-refoulement to challenge our decision of deporting Rohingya. But let me tell them it applies to people who gave taken asylum.”
He also pointed out that India has provided humanitarian assistance to Rohingya living in Bangladesh, which was also affected by the “illegal immigration”.

On August 8, the Home Ministry issued an advisory to states and union territories to identify and deport all “illegal migrants”, including Rohingya and Bangladeshi settlers. It said that they “infringe” on the rights of the citizens and pose a “security threat” as they are “vulnerable to radicalisation” by terror groups.

According to the government’s estimates, there are nearly 40,000 Rohingya in India out of which 14,000 are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

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