New Delhi: After the deportation of another batch of Rohingya refugees last week, United Nations human rights experts have called on India to stop their forced return to Myanmar in breach of international law.
Five UN Human Rights Council experts – special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance E. Tendayi Achiume, special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants Felipe González Morales, chair-rapporteur of the working group on arbitrary detention Seong-Phil Hong, special rapporteur on minority issues Fernand de Varennes and special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee – issued a statement on Tuesday on the planned deportation of a Rohingya father and his two sons.
“We are dismayed by the decision of the Indian Government to continue forced returns of Rohingya to Myanmar, where they face high risk of attacks, reprisals and other forms of persecution because of their ethnic and religious identity,” said a joint statement from the experts. They have relayed their concerns to the Indian authorities.
In January this year, India had deported five members of the same family, who were arrested in 2014 for violating the Foreigners Act. This was three months after India deported seven Rohingya people in October 2018, after the Supreme Court refused to stay their expatriation.
India has claimed that the Rohingya are being sent back on a voluntary basis. However, experts and rights organisations have said that due to the conditions in Myanmar, it is difficult to ascertain if the Rohingya had accepted repatriation in a transparent process.
As per reports, the head of the family, Mohammad Imam Hussain, stayed behind, as the identity of two children were not confirmed by the Myanmar government.
The other three were deported to Myanmar via Moreh on March 28, according to local media.
“The deportation of Rohingya to Myanmar speaks to a system of refugee status determination that fails to account for the ongoing, credible reports of ethnic and religious minority persecution in that country,” the experts said.
They also expressed serious concerns with the Indian legal and administrative processes for refugee status determination.
They reminded India that the principle of non-refoulement under international law “prohibits States from forcing individuals to return to countries when there are substantial grounds for believing that they would be at risk of persecution, torture, ill-treatment or other serious human rights violations”.
India had been long time votary of non-refoulement at multilateral platforms, but the position was reversed in 2017.
There are around 40,000 Rohingya refugees in India, as per government statistics. There have been increasing incidents of Rohingya being detained by Indian security authorities, which has also caught the eye of the UN special rapporteurs.
“We also remain concerned with the systemic use of indefinite detention of Rohingya in India, which is indicative of the unacceptable conditions of discrimination and intolerance they face in the country where they have sought refuge,” said the experts.