- Seven Rohingya Muslim men, arrested in 2012 for illegally entering Assam, were officially handed over to Myanmar authorities at Manipur’s border town Moreh.
- The deportation from the immigration point at Moreh Gate No 2 took place at 1 p.m. soon after the SC rejected the plea to intervene in the case.
Who are the Rohingyas?
- The Rohingya, who numbered around one million in Myanmar at the start of 2017, are one of the many ethnic minorities in the country.
- Rohingya Muslims represent the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar, with the majority living in Rakhine state.
- They have their own language and culture and say they are descendants of Arab traders and other groups who have been in the region for generations.
- But the government of Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country, denies the Rohingya citizenship and even excluded them from the 2014 census, refusing to recognise them as a people. It sees them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
- Since the 1970s, Rohingya have migrated across the region in significant numbers.
- Estimates of their numbers are often much higher than official figures.
- In the last few years, before the latest crisis, thousands of Rohingya were making perilous journeys out of Myanmar to escape communal violence or alleged abuses by the security forces.
- The Rohingya, Muslims from Rakhine province on Myanmar’s western coast, started arriving in sizeable numbers in India’s Northeast in late 2011 following stepped-up persecution by the Myanmar armed forces.
- The seven men were arrested in 2012 for having entered India illegally.
- The Chief Judicial Magistrate, Cachar, convicted them of violating The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, and sent them to prison for three months, followed by detention pending repatriation.
- The men had been lodged at the Silchar Central Prison in Assam ever since.
- The state shared details about the individuals with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which verifies nationality through foreign missions and embassies.
- Myanmar confirmed their identities and issued them travel documents; meanwhile, the seven men, too, requested the Myanmarese embassy in India to facilitate their return.
- After reconfirming their willingness to be repatriated, India moved to send them back.
- The seven men were handed over to the Myanmarese authorities at the Moreh border in Manipur after the Supreme Court declined to intervene in the process.
- The seven men were handed over to the Myanmarese authorities at the Moreh border in Manipur.
- The Rohingya have been usually found to enter India from three townships in Myanmar – Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung in Northeastern Rakhine State that borders Bangladesh.
- Assam Police’s Border Organisation deals with detection and deportation of foreigners in Assam.
Who is a refugee??
- Article 1 Para 2 of the 1951 United Nations Convention defines ‘refugee’ as “A person who owing to well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.
- In 2011, the Union government circulated to all states and Union Territories a Standard Operating Procedure to deal with foreign nationals who claimed to be refugees.
Note- India is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, and it does not currently have a national law on refugees.
Illegal immigrant in India
- An illegal immigrant can be
(i) a foreign national who enters India on valid travel documents and stays beyond their validity, or
(ii) a foreign national who enters without valid travel documents.
- In the view of the Indian government, illegal migrants “infringe on the rights of Indian citizens” and are “more vulnerable for getting recruited by terrorist organisations”.
- Section 3(2)(c) of The Foreigners Act, 1946, gives the central government the right to deport a foreign national.
- The power to identify and deport foreign nationals who are in India illegally has been delegated to state governments, Union Territories and the Home Ministry’s Bureau of Immigration.
- Illegal immigrants who are intercepted at the border while entering India unauthorisedly can be sent back then and there.
- According to the government, the Mission Mode Project on Immigration, Visa and Foreigners Registration & Tracking (IVFRT) will facilitate improved tracking of foreigners by integrating and sharing information captured at Indian missions during the issuance of visas, during checks at Immigration Check Posts (ICPs), and at Foreigners’ Regional Registration Offices (FRROs).
How many Rohingya are currently in India? In which parts of the country are they concentrated?
- As per Home Ministry data, there are more than 14,000 UNHCR-registered Rohingya in India.
- However, security agencies estimate the number of Rohingya living illegally in India at 40,000.
- There are clusters of Rohingya population in Jammu, Hyderabad, and Delhi-NCR, besides the states of Haryana, UP, and Rajasthan.
- The UN says the Indian government has an international legal obligation to acknowledge the institutionalised discrimination, persecution, hate and human rights violations the Rohingya face in their country of origin, and to provide them with necessary protection.
Does Supreme Court order mean more Rohingya could now be sent back to Myanmar?
- The plea deals with India’s obligations under international human rights conventions.
- However, those already declared illegal immigrants or foreigners without valid documents could face action as per the laid down procedure under The Foreigners Act, 1946.
Has India sent back any other foreigners as well?
- Bureau of Immigration data show approximately 330 Pakistanis and approximately 1,770 Bangladeshi nationals have been repatriated during the last three years.
- On February 24, 2016, the government told Parliament that in 2014, West Bengal had arrested 3,724 foreign nationals under various sections of The Foreigners Act, 1946, and for violating Immigration Control Rules and Regulations, followed by Tripura (1,713), Tamil Nadu (639), and Maharashtra (228).
- As of December 2014, 28,356 foreign nationals were found to be overstaying illegally in India.
- In 2017, the Bangladesh government verified the nationalities of 52 individuals lodged in various detention camps in Assam, and issued travel documents for their repatriation.