Indian authorities on Thursday deported five Rohingya Muslims to neighboring Myanmar who had been in custody since 2014 for entering India’s northeast without proper papers, officials said, part of a central government crackdown on illegal immigration.
The Rohingya – three men and two women – were transferred to Myanmar authorities at the Moreh crossing point, which sits along the border between the two countries in northeastern India’s Manipur state, a senior police official said. The five were the second small batch of stateless Rohingya to be expelled back to Myanmar by India during the past few months for alleged immigration violations.
“Five of them were handed over to immigration officials of Myanmar at 4 p.m. today,” Ibomcha Singh, the superintendent of police in Tengnuopal, a district of Manipur, told BenarNews by phone.
The five had been incarcerated since 2014 at a jail in Assam, another northeastern state, and were driven to the border crossing-point in Manipur on Wednesday.
It was not clear whether they were among Rohingya refugees who had fled earlier anti-Muslim violence and discrimination in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where the government does not recognize members of the ethnic group as citizens.
More than 700,000 Rohingya sought shelter in southeastern Bangladesh amid a crackdown mounted by Myanmar forces against Rohingya insurgents in August 2017. It followed rebel raids that targeted government security posts in Rakhine state. Since then, Myanmar government has been widely criticized over allegations of massive atrocities committed by its forces against Rohingya civilians.
The five Rohingya who were expelled on Thursday were identified as Md Ayas, Riyas Ali, Ahmed Hussain, Toyaba Khatun and Azida Begum.
According to the Reuters news service, the five belonged to the same family.
They were among a group of 10 people, including children, who were arrested in Assam’s Sonitpur district in 2014 on suspicion of entering the country without proper documents.
In October, India sent back to Myanmar another seven Rohingya who had been caught on the Indian side of the border in 2012. They were also deported via the Moreh crossing in Manipur.
While hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees are concentrated in camps and settlements in the southeastern corner of Bangladesh, tens of thousands more are scattered in India, where the Hindu nationalist-led central government, back in August 2017, threatened to send back to Myanmar as many as 40,000 Rohingya.
India has not yet carried out any large-scale deportations. But in October 2018, the Indian government began gathering biometric data from Rohingya to verify whether they had U.N. refugee status, authorities said. The move, nonetheless, raised concerns among rights groups that it could lead to mass expulsions.