Rohingya case: Can illegal immigrants get refugee status in India? Supreme Court to hear in August

Published: July 9, 2019 5:56:12 PM

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said it will consider the moot question of whether illegal immigrants are entitled to refugee status in India. The matter will come up for hearing in August.

Rohingya crisis, Rohingya Muslims, Rohingya issue, Rohingya india, Rohingya Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees, Rohingya news, Rohingya meaning, Rohingya refugee crisisThe petitioners have contended that the central government’s proposed move to deport Rohingyas is violative of the constitutional guarantee. (IE File photo)

By Sanjana

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear in August the Centre’s query whether Rohingyas, or any other illegal immigrant, can claim refugee status in India. The key question being considered is whether the community is eligible for refugee status or not. The matter came before the top court while hearing a bunch of petitions filed against the deportation of Rohingya immigrants currently in India, Live Law reported.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said it will consider the moot question of whether illegal immigrants are entitled to refugee status in India. The matter will come up for hearing in August. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued that the key concern is “whether illegal immigrants can claim refugee status; how they are being dealt with internationally is the main issue. Everything else is peripheral…”.

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The bench headed by Chief Justice Gogoi has decided to address the central issue of granting the refugee status. The counsel has been directed to file the gist of their arguments and other supporting literature, article, etc. by August. Responding to Justice Anirudhha Bose’s question about the procedure for granting refugee status to non-citizens, senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioners, said that nation-states set up a department to handle such claims. As India has no such department, it has been in an unofficial relationship with UNHCR, he said.

Rohingya Muslims, categorised by United Nations as the most persecuted people, have faced uncertainty in the country since the reports of a statement made by the then Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju which put forward that the government had directed the states to identify and deport illegal immigrants, including Rohingya. Last year the apex court dismissed the plea against deportation of seven members of the community.

“There is an intensive interrogation as to where they are coming from, if they are genuinely escaping persecution- there is a detailed inquiry pursuant to which the refugee status is issued…60-70% of the Rohingya in India already have the refugee cards. The remaining are pending determination…”, Gonsalves informed.

The petitioners have contended that the central government’s proposed move to deport Rohingyas is violative of the constitutional guarantee that the Indian State should “protect the life and liberty of every human being, whether citizen or not.” The petitioners have further submitted that 40,000-odd Rohingya were registered and recognised by the UNHCR in 2016 and granted refugee identity cards and their deportation would go against India’s commitment to international conventions.

Rohingya crisis is regarded as one of the most prominent humanitarian issues of the time. It was fuelled after large scale violence in Myanmar’s state of Rahine which forced the community to flee to India. India, however, has argued that its actions have been in accordance with the country’s laws.

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