New York: India should abide by its international legal obligations and should not forcibly return ethnic Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, where they face persecution, without fairly evaluating their claims as refugees, a global human rights group has said.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) cited Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju’s statement to Parliament that “the government has issued detailed instructions for deportation of illegal foreign nationals including Rohingyas”, noting that there were around 40,000 Rohingyas living illegally in India.
“India has a long record of helping vulnerable populations fleeing from neighboring countries, including Sri Lankans, Afghans, and Tibetans,” HRW’s South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly said.
The Rohingya is a Muslim minority predominately from western Myanmar.
“Indian authorities should abide by India s international legal obligations and not forcibly return any Rohingya to Burma without first fairly evaluating their claims as refugees,” she said.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had also expressed concern about India’s plans to deport Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, underlining that they should not be returned to countries where they fear persecution once they are registered.
Ganguly said without the willingness or capacity to evaluate refugee claims, the Indian government should put an end to any plans to deport the Rohingya, and instead register them so that they can get an education and health care and find work.
“Most of the Rohingya were forced to flee egregious abuse, and India should show leadership by protecting the beleaguered community and calling on the Burmese government to end the repression and atrocities causing these people to leave,” she added.
HRW said about 16,500 Rohingya living in India are registered with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), while the government contends that tens of thousands are unregistered.
The group said Rijiju s statement does not accurately reflect India’s obligations under international refugee law. PTI