HYDERABAD: Thousands of Rohingya refugees are fleeing to Bangladesh. The count has reached close to 40,000 in the last two days and according to officials at Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international NGO working for advocacy of human rights, homes of 700 Rohingyas have been burnt.
“People have been killed. One woman told us that her father’s throat has been slit. This is not an environment where they can be sent back,” pointed Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director, HRW.
The count of Rohingya Muslim deaths as on September 1 has reached 400. Reportedly, militants had attacked police posts in Rakhine on August 25 which sparked off a major battle, pushing thousands of Rohingyas to leave Myanmar.
The Supreme Court too has agreed to hear the plea of two Rohingya Muslims after Kiren Rijiju, the union minister of state for home affairs said that around 40,000 Rohingyas are living in the country as illegal immigrants. The National Human Rights Commission had intervened and issued a notice to the Indian Government to send a detailed report regarding identifying Rohingya Muslims across states in the country. While it is evident that the lives of Rohingya Muslims are at severe risk, following the government’s directions, the Telangana Police will start its screening process to deport, not just illegal immigrants from Myanmar but also from other countries. “We will begin the process by September 7 or 8 and it is not just Rohingya Muslims, but from other countries as well,” informed V Satyanarayana, DCP, South Zone. The police screening will look into the number of immigrants living in the city, their occupations, and if they have identity cards issued by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
“If there are any without the cards, we will see if they are issued cards. If there is anyone living here illegally, then they will be deported. If anyone has violated any of the laws, then they will be taken into custody,” added the DCP. Though the Telangana Police has the authority to investigate any criminal activity, it has no right to send people across international borders. The principle of non-refoulement which India follows, is part of international customary law and therefore binding on countries whether or not they are signatories to the Refugee Convention. In addition, India is party to major international human rights instruments such as International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“There has to be proper consular access. Sending them back is not an option. The Myanmar government has to acknowledge Rohingyas as Myanmar nationals if they can be deported. But they don’t. Hence, this accounts to illegal trafficking of people by the Indian government,” pointed Ganguly. While the police is prepping up for the process, the Rohingya Muslims living in the city shared that their only hope for their survival is now threatened. Not all of the Rohingya refugees in the city have UNHCR ID cards and children of those families have stopped going to school.
“They don’t wish to be identified and there is no point as they will be leaving soon,” said one refugee.
Another, who reached the city in 2012, when a state of emergency was declared after clashes between Rohingyas and Rakhine Buddhists then said, “We crossed two borders to reach here for a better life. Albeit encountering harassment from various quarters, we do not live under the constant fear of our children being slaughtered or our homes burnt down. If is better if they kill us here. At least we will have a grave. Back home, there is no one to even bury us.”
Most of them work as scrap collectors and earn around `200 per day. Plastic sheets qualify as roofs and the scrap they collect is segregate is stored outsider their doors. A few work as daily wagers. “Every morning, we have to hear locals say that our existence has made it hard for them to get jobs and they want us out,” said another man. They avoid arguments or getting into fights, they claim as the police often remind them of their place. “If we end up in the police station for any petty crime, officials tell us that they can send us back anytime. Now, that fear has only doubled” added the refugee.
Left with noplace to go
Around 16, 500 Rohingyas are registered with the UNHCR in India
UNHCR issues ID cards to help prevent arbitrary arrests, detention and deportation
The Government also issues Long Term Visas to refugees which eases their access to public services, bank accounts and employment in the private sector