40.000 Rohingya refugees living in India face the threat of deportation

Religion should not be instrumentalized in election campaigns (Press Release)

Last Thursday, seven Rohingya refugees from Assam State were deported to Burma. Picture: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard via Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has warned India not to deport a group of 40,000 Rohingya refugees to Burma. “A mass deportation of people who have fled from crimes against humanity would have to be seen as a violation of the international law principle of non-refoulement,” emphasized Ulrich Delius, the STP’s director, in Göttingen on Tuesday. In a letter to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the STP recalled that the country is obliged not to deport the victims of serious human rights violations to the persecuting state of Burma. “A few days ago, the Federal Interior Ministry of India had announced plans to collect the biometric data of the Rohingya refugees in order to prepare their deportation. Now, they are living in fear,” Delius stated. Last Thursday, seven Rohingya refugees were deported to Burma from Assam State.

The human rights organization warned that the Rohingya issue should not be instrumentalized in the upcoming election campaign for the parliamentary elections in India in 2019. “It is irresponsible to slander and criminalize an entire ethnic group,” Delius criticized. Recently, the president of the influential Hindu nationalist party BJP, Amit Shah, had stated that “illegal immigrants are like termites that undermine national security.” “It is scandalous and unjustified to accuse the Rohingya of supporting international terrorism merely based on the fact that they are Muslims,” Delius emphasized. The human rights advocate accused the Indian politician of using the Rohingya issue to mobilize voters. However, it is absurd to argue that Rohingya women and children who are suffering from serious human rights violations and need protection could be active supporters of Pakistani terrorist groups. 

There are about 40,000 Rohingya refugees living in India. Only 16,500 of them are officially registered by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees – but India’s authorities are not even prepared to recognize these registrations and provisional ID documents. The situation of the Rohingya has become especially problematic since India’s authorities decided to resettle around 7,000 of them to the state of Jammu & Kashmir, along the disputed border between India and Pakistan. “Thus, Hindu nationalists are accusing the Rohingya refugees of spying for Pakistan, the hostile neighboring country, only because they are Muslims,” Delius stated.

Header image: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard via Flickr