Saturday, August 20, 2022

No Refuge for the Rohingya

 India does not have a national policy or a law to deal with refugees. The country is, however, not a signatory to international laws such as the 1951 UN Convention and the 1967 Protocol, which secure the rights of refugees to seek asylum and protect them from being sent back to life-threatening places. Refugees entering the country without a visa are treated as illegal immigrants under the Foreigners Act or the Indian Passport Act. An absence of documents can mean that refugees coming to India have no access to basic facilities like healthcare, education and employment.

In 2019, the Modi government passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which offers amnesty and expedites the path to Indian citizenship for non-Muslim "illegal immigrants" from the neighbouring countries, such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, Sri Lankan Tamil refugees were provided an allowance by the state government and allowed to seek jobs. India has for years supported the Dalai Lama and Tibetan refugees who followed him into exile and sought asylum in the country.

Hours after Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri's tweet that there are plans to provide housing and security to the Rohingya community in the capital, New Delhi, the government said the refugees would be held in detention centres until they were deported.

According to Human Rights Watch, an estimated 40,000 Rohingyas are in India - at least 20,000 of them are registered with the UN Human Rights Commission.

Refugees recognised by the Indian government can get access to education, healthcare, jobs and housing in camps. But those registered with UNHRC get little protection in their daily lives and often do not get residential permits from the government, human rights lawyer Nandita Haksar said earlier this year.

 Lawyer Colin Gonsalves, founder of the Human Rights Law Networks, says the the constitution protects the rights of refugees. Pushing Rohingya back across the border to Myanmar where their lives will be in danger will be in breach of the right to life under the constitution. He told the BBC, "The Rohingya cannot be put into detention camps as they have not committed any crime," he said. "They come here because they are forced to flee persecution."

More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since August 2017, crossing the border to Bangladesh 

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has told the UN rights chief that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees living in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh must return home to Myanmar, from where they had fled waves of violent persecution.

“The Rohingya are nationals of Myanmar and they have to be taken back,” Hasina was quoted as saying.

 Bangladesh has become increasingly impatient with the presence of its huge refugee population. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said she was concerned about “increasing anti-Rohingya rhetoric” and scapegoating of the community.

Rohingya and CAA: What is India's refugee policy? - BBC News

Bangladesh tells UN that Rohingya refugees must return to Myanmar | Rohingya News | Al Jazeera

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