MEA Speaks of Rohingya Refugees, Rajnath Singh Calls Them 'Illegal Immigrants'

The external affairs ministry recognises that those fleeing Myanmar's Rakhine state are refugees but the home ministry believes they no longer deserve that designation once they are in India.

New Delhi: Union home minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday that Rohingya people in India do not qualify as refugees who have taken asylum, but are, in fact “illegal immigrants”. “Rohingya are not refugees, nor have they taken asylum. They are illegal immigrants,” he said.

Singh added that since Myanmar had said it was willing to take back Rohingya people – referring to Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s statement that the country would accept returning people after a due verification process – there is no reason for India not to report them.

“Those who have been verified as refugees will be accepted without any problems and with full assurance of security and access to humanitarian aid,” Suu Kyi had said on Monday.

“Myanmar se Bharat ghus aaye, ye Rohingya refugee nahi hain iss sachchai ko hume samajhna chahiye… Refugee status prapt karne ke liye ek process hota hai aur inmein se kisi ne iss procedure ko follow nahi kia hai.. (They have entered India from Myanmar. Rohingya are not refugees, we need to understand this reality. There is a procedure to acquire refugee status and none of them have followed that),” ANI quoted Singh as saying.

Also read: India’s Long-Standing Asylum Practices Contradict Modi Government’s Stand on Rohingya

Singh also repeated the argument offered by the Centre in its Supreme Court affidavit, that India was not going against international law because it is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention. “Western human rights have been through struggle but in India it always existed. Our country has taken oral universal declaration (for human rights). Today if you have done navratra puja, the pandit would have chanted the shanti shloka. It shows our commitment,” the home minister said after reciting a Sanskrit shloka, according to News18. He was speaking at a seminar organised by the National Human Rights Commission in New Delhi.

The Ministry of External Affairs, however, seems to disagree with Singh’s classification of the Rohingya. In a September 9 statement, the Sushma-Swaraj led ministry said:

India remains deeply concerned about the situation in Rakhine State in Myanmar and the outflow of refugees from that region.

The external affairs ministry then recognised that those fleeing Rakhine State are refugees – though the home ministry believes they no longer deserve that designation once they are in India.

At an informal interactive dialogue of the fact-finding mission on Myanmar at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday, India had also accepted that the “large outflow of people” of Rohingya people has taken place after “security operations” by Myanmar military following a terrorist attack in Rakhine State last month. The Indian statement did not, however, name the Rohingya.