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Rohingya Muslims are illegal immigrants, deporting them not against law: Rajnath

The NHRC had recently issued a notice to the Centre over its plan to deport Rohingya Muslims, who are residing in various parts of India.

india Updated: Sep 21, 2017 23:51 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Rohingya Muslims,Rajnath Singh,NHRC
A woman from the Rohingya community walks through a camp in Delhi. (Reuters)

The Rohingya were not refugees but illegal immigrants who would be deported, home minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday, reinforcing the government’s tough stand on the minority community that has fled violence in neighbouring Myanmar.

Speaking at a seminar organised by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Singh said the Rohingya had entered India without following procedure and not one of them had applied for asylum.

“To get the refugee status, one needs to follow a certain process. None among them has followed that procedure,” Singh said.

The Modi government wants to deport tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees, almost all of them Muslims, for being a “serious security threat” to the country.

More than 420, 000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since late August when the Myanmar military launched a fresh crackdown in Rakhine state, where the United Nations has accused the force of ethnic cleansing.

The exodus has piled pressure on Myanmar’s de facto leader and Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who has faced criticism over her handling of violence and the refugee crisis.

There are around 40,000 Rohingya Muslims in India.

“Don’t mistake illegal immigrants for refugees. Any sovereign nation will act against illegal immigrants. The issue is also related to our national security,” the minister said as he addressed a seminar on good governance and human rights.

Earlier in the week, the government had raised security concerns, telling the Supreme Court that many Rohingya people had links with the Islamic State and Pakistan’s spy agency the ISI.

The court is hearing a clutch of petitions against the government’s plan to deport the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship by Myanmar that labels them as illegal immigrants. In fact, the Myanmar government does not even use the term Rohingya, which it says is controversial.

On Thursday, the West Bengal child rights commission, too, knocked on the top court’s door. It said 44 Rohingya children were staying in correctional facilities and a shelter home in the state.

The entire community couldn’t be branded as terrorists and the proposed deportation of the children was against the Constitution, the plea said.

Singh, however, took a hard line on international rights groups and questioned why “some people” were objecting to the deportation of the Rohingya when Myanmar was ready to accept them.

“People who are beating trumpets that we are violating in-ternational law should know there is no violation. This reality needs to be understood,” he said.

India would not be violating international law in sending back the Rohingya as it was not a signatory to the UN refugee convention, 1951, the minister said.

The NHRC said it took up the issue of the Rohingya on humanitarian grounds but refused to comment on the minister’s remarks that “illegal immigrants” would be deported.

“We are taking up the case of Rohingyas on humanitarian grounds. I can’t comment on the government line,” NHRC chairman justice (retired) HL Dattu told mediapersons on a few minutes after Singh’s address.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Sep 21, 2017 12:25 IST