Indian authorities on Wednesday put seven Rohingyas on a heavily guarded bus to travel more than 300 kms (186 miles) to the border with Myanmar where they are to be deported as New Delhi toughens its stand on illegal immigrants.
The seven have been in a prison in Silchar in southern Assam since 2012 after they entered India illegally from Myanmar, according to officials. Twenty police accompanied them to the border.
“The Indian Home Ministry is monitoring the entire process,” Additional Superintendent of Police P.V.V. Rakesh Reddy told BenarNews.
The Rohingya were transported to Moreh in Assam’s neighboring state of Manipur, which shares a border with Myanmar.
“The seven will be handed over to Myanmar authorities at the Moreh border on Thursday,” a Home Ministry official, who asked not to be identified, said in New Delhi.
This is the first time Rohingya immigrants are being sent back to Myanmar from India. Myanmar diplomats had confirmed their identities, according to the Indian government.
Biometric data to be collected
On Monday, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh said states had been asked to identify Rohingya refugees and collect their biometric data.
He told a meeting in the eastern city of Kolkata that the federal government will send the collected data to the Myanmar government through diplomatic channels.
Meanwhile, United Nations Special Rapporteur E. Tendayi Achiume expressed alarm at New Delhi’s move to deport the Rohingya.
“Given the ethnic identity of the men, this is a flagrant denial of their right to protection and could amount to refoulement,” she said in a statement, referring to the practice of sending refugees back to a country where they face danger.
“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 diplomat said.
Last year, officials said more than 14,000 Rohingya were registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and living in India. Aid agencies estimate about 40,000 Rohingya are in the country.
Meanwhile, nearly 200 Rohingya are being detained in India on illegal entry charges, Agence France-Press reported.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority, fled their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine state beginning in August 2017 to escape a crackdown by the Myanmar military in retaliation for attacks on border guard and army posts blamed on the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. More than 700,000 of them have settled at refugee camps in Bangladesh.