In a new blow to Rohingya refugees fleeing for the lives from Myanmar, the Indian government is all set to deport seven of them back. A Bench of Justices, headed by the newly appointed Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, the Supreme Court dismissed the application seeking a stay on the deportation of the seven Rohingya refugees. The bench outweighed the government’s submission ‘concerned refugees found to be illegal immigrants’. The seven ‘concerned’ refugees had been lodged in Silchar Central Jail in Assam since 2012 for illegally entering India.
Violation of International Law
An official from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in an interview with Reuters said: “the forcible return of the Rohingya was a violation of international law.”
In a statement, Tendayi Achiume, UN’s Special Rapporteur on racism said: “the Indian government has an international legal obligation to fully acknowledge the institutionalized discrimination, persecution, hate and gross human rights violations these people have faced in their country of origin and provide them with the necessary protection.”
Article 1(A)(2) of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees defines refugee as an individual who is outside his/her country of nationality or residence, is unable or unwilling to return due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on his/her race, religion, nationality, and political opinion.
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India is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention but has been very much active in welcoming and sheltering refugees from Tibet, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Representing the petitioner Mohammed Salimullah, Advocate Prashant Bhushan said “the Myanmar government has refused to recognize them as their citizens and they are considered as stateless individuals. They have been through unimaginable torture. About 500,000 of them fled to Bangladesh and some 40 – 50 thousand to India to save their lives.”
Mr Bhushan’s argument that ‘they are not illegal immigrants but only refugees’ has shaken India to its core. India has always supported the weak and the defenceless. But being fearful of being these refugees radicalised, the government has taken the drastic steps and decisions.
Mr Bhushan argued that Article 21 was being violated but the bench dismissed the application and maintained that the concerned refugees had been found to be illegal immigrants. “Their country of origin has accepted them as citizens”, said the bench.
The UNHCR has been fighting for the Rohingyas, a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar. After August 2017 exodus, 723,000 are seeking refuge in Bangladesh. Majority of them are women and children. There are 14,000 Rohingya refugees registered with UNHCR staying in India. The UNHCR has time and again said: “never seen a community so discriminated in the world as the Rohingyas.”