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Rohingya Muslims immigrants or refugees: Explaining the terms

They are a “serious security threat”, says the government.

india Updated: Sep 21, 2017 15:14 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rohingya Muslims,refugees,immigrants
A woman from the Rohingya community walks through a camp in Delhi, India August 17, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton/Files(Reuters)

Rohingya Muslims are illegal immigrants and not refugees because they have not come to India by “following proper procedures”, home minister Rajnath Singh has said.

Rohingyas living in India are a “serious security threat” and they would exhaust natural resources meant for Indians that could culminate in hostility towards them and lead to social tension and law and order problems, Singh’s government told the Supreme Court this week. Two Rohingya refugees have filed a court petition challenging any Indian decision to deport an estimated 40,000 people of the community who fled alleged persecution in Myanmar. As debate rages on whether Rohingya Muslims are refugees or illegal immigrants, here is an explanation of what the terms mean.

Who is an immigrant?

An immigrant is someone who chooses to resettle to another country. It is someone who moves from one place to another in order to live in another country for more than a year, explains this Guardian article. “People who move to work or seek a better life are generally termed economic migrants. There are, however, also international students, those who move for family reasons and those who migrate because they are fleeing war and persecution. An individual case can be a mixture of all those things. It is, after all, possible to flee the war in Syria and want a better life for your family,” the article says.

Who is a refugee?

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her home country. The Internation Organization for Migration, an inter-governmental organisation, defines a refugee as: A person who, “owing to a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinions, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country. “

Refugees in India

India grants asylum and provides direct assistance to some 200,000 refugees from neighbouring countries, notesthe country website of the UN High Commission For Refugees. But India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which has been signed by 145 state parties and outlines the rights of displaced people. Security concerns appear to be the main reason for India not signing the convention, notes this LiveMint article.

Why won’t India give Rohingyas refuge?

There are an estimated 40,000 Rohingya Muslims in India. The government has given a number of reasons for not giving them refuge status: from alleging that some of them have links with terrorist organisations to them being burden on India’s national resources.

First Published: Sep 21, 2017 14:49 IST