UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is concerned about India's plans to deport Rohingya refugees of Myanmar, his spokesperson has said, underlining that refugees should not be returned to countries where they fear persecution once they are registered.
Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju had told parliament last week that the central government had directed state authorities to identify and deport illegal immigrants, including Rohingyas, who face persecution in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
"Obviously, we have our concerns about the treatment of refugees. Once refugees are registered, they are not to be returned to countries where they fear persecution," Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters here yesterday.
Haq was responding to a question on India's plans to deport Rohingyas from Myanmar regardless of whether they are registered as UN refugees or not.
The Rohingya are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group concentrated in Myanmar, with smaller communities in Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia.
An estimated 1.1 million Rohingya live in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State, where up to 78 percent of people live in poverty, according to the World Bank.
Muslims have lived in Myanmar since the 11th century, though most Rohingya in the country today are descended from Bengali Muslim farm workers brought to Rakhine after it was annexed by the British in 1826.
The ethnic origins of the Rohingya have been a source of contention for Myanmar’s Buddhist majority ever since hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi Muslims fled their country during the Bangladeshi war of independence in 1971. In 1978, Myanmar’s ruling military junta tried to force them out.
The Rohingya were conflated with those fleeing conflict, meaning that the authorities and much of the Buddhist community (which makes up 80 percent of the population) viewed them as illegal immigrants. Bangladesh does not consider them citizens either, and forcibly repatriate those that cross the border.
In 1982, the government passed a citizenship law that prevented Rohingya from becoming Myanmar citizens by stipulating that their ancestors must have settled in the country before 1823. In 1994, General Than Shew’s government stopped issuing Rohingya children with birth certificates.
The 2014 census, the first to be conducted in Myanmar for 30 years, excluded Rohingya from the list of 135 officially recognized ethnic groups. The government denies the Rohingya official documents that would allow them to move, study, work, marry or access healthcare. As a result, they are effectively stateless.
Most of Rohingya muslims are Wahabi. Wahabism is controvercial form of radical Islam. Even Bangladesh did not give shelter to Rohingya muslims due to fear of spreading Wahabism in their country. BJP led goverment has established settlement of refugee Rohingya Muslims in Jammu in spite of the objection of native people of Jammu.
Haq said UN principles of non-refoulement applies in this case.
According the these principles, no nation shall expel or return a refugee in any manner to territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
When asked which agency would convey this message to India, Haq said the first point of contact will be through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. PTI