The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is concerned about India’s plans to deport Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, according to his spokesperson Farhan Haq. Responding to a question on Monday about reports that India was going to send back Rohingyas, Haq said, “Obviously we have our concern about the treatment of refugees. Once refugees are registered they are not to be returned back to the countries where they fear persecution.” Guterres, who was the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is deeply attached to the cause of refugees.
Haq said the office of the UNHCR will take up the issue with the Indian government. He reminded India of a UN dictum against deporting refugees. “You are aware of our principle of non refoulement,” he said referring to the doctrine in the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees.
That principle lays down that a refugee cannot be returned to a place where the person’s life or freedom would be “threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” India has not signed the UN refugees convention.
Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju told the Lok Sabha last week, “According to UNHCR there are 13,000 Rohingya migrants registered. But we have also got figures from IB (Intelligence Bureau), which shows they have migrated to India in large numbers.”
“Steps are being taken to ensure that we do not get uncontrolled influx of migrants in the country, which creates lots of problem related to social, political, cultural. “And at the same time we want to ensure that the demographic pattern of India is not disturbed,” Rijiju added. He said that a “concentration camp of Rohingyas has come up” in Jammu and Kashmir and later clarified that it was only a detention camp and not a “concentration camp” like those in Nazi Germany.
Subsequently, a Home Ministry official was quoted in media reports as saying that India was in touch with Myanmar and Bangladesh to deport 40,000 Rohingyas illegally in India. UNHCR office in India has reportedly issued refugee IDs to about 16,500 Rohingyas in India.