Hours After Union Minister's Claim, Centre Says No Relocation of Rohingyas to Flats

While Hardeep Singh Puri had said that India has always welcomed those who have sought refuge, the Union home ministry said it had not given any order to relocate Rohingya "illegal migrants".

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New Delhi: Hours after Union housing minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Wednesday said that Rohingya refugees will be shifted to apartments in Bakkarwala in outer Delhi, the Union home ministry denied said it had not given any instructions for their relocation.

While Puri, the Union minister for housing and urban affairs, used the term “refugees” to describe the Rohingyas, the Union home ministry described them as “illegal migrants”.

Puri said that the Rohingyas would be relocated to economically weaker section (EWS) flats that have been constructed by the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) – which is under the purview of the Union government – and located in the Bakkarwala area near the Tikri border.

“India has always welcomed those who have sought refuge in the country. In a landmark decision all Rohingya Refugees will be shifted to EWS flats in Bakkarwala area of Delhi. They will be provided basic amenities, UNHCR IDs & round-the-clock Delhi Police protection,” Puri tweeted at 7:32 am on Wednesday.

He had also claimed that all those who had criticised the country’s refugee policy “would be disappointed with the move”.

“Those who made a career out of spreading canards on India’s refugee policy deliberately linking it to CAA will be disappointed. India respects & follows UN Refugee Convention 1951 & provides refuge to all, regardless of their race, religion or creed,” the minister said in another tweet.

His claims were swiftly denied by the Union home ministry, which tweeted at 2:50 pm that it had not given any orders to provide EWS flats to the Rohingyas.

The ministry – headed by Amit Shah, who has often accused opposition parties of “appeasing” the Rohingyas – said that the Delhi government had “proposed to shift the Rohingyas to a new location”. The ministry said it directed the Delhi government to ensure that the Rohingyas “will continue at the present location as MHA has already taken up the matter of their deportation with the concerned country” through the Ministry of External Affairs.

“Illegal foreigners are to be kept in Detention Centre till their deportation as per law. The Government of Delhi has not declared the present location as a Detention Centre. They have been directed to do the same immediately,” it tweeted.

In his tweet, Puri shared a screenshot from a report by the news agency ANI, which said that around 1,100 Rohingyas staying in tents will be shifted to flats equipped with basic facilities and round-the-clock security. This decision, the report said, was taken after a “high-level meeting over the accommodation of Rohingya in the national capital was held. The meeting was chaired by the Chief Secretary of Delhi and was attended by senior officials of the Delhi government, Delhi Police and Ministry of Home Affairs.”

All the Rohingyas who will be shifted to these flats hold the unique ID of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and their details are on record, the report added.

Puri’s announcement was attacked by the Aam Aadmi Party, which leads the Delhi government, and right-wing groups like the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP). “A big conspiracy by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to toy with the country’s security has now been exposed. With this, the BJP has admitted their hand in settling thousands of Rohingyas in Delhi. Now they are preparing to give them pucca houses and shops. The people of Delhi will not allow this to happen at all. The BJP let the Rohingyas enter India, and now they are only helping them settle down to pat their own backs,” AAP chief spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said, according to Hindustan Times.

The VHP’s Alok Kumar recounted that Amit Shah had once said in parliament that Rohingyas will “never be accepted as refugees”. He said that the Rohingyas were “infiltrators”.