India plans to send seven Rohingya Muslims back to Myanmar in the first deportation of members of the Myanmar minority group since the Home Ministry ordered state authorities a year ago to identify and deport them and other people in the country illegally.
The seven men had been in a detention centre in eastern India since 2012 after being arrested for illegal entry, and were handed over to Myanmar, the government said, after India's top court rejected a plea to halt the deportation. In 2016, the seven Rohingya wrote to the Myanmar embassy via the Silchar district magistrate and the foreign ministry requesting the Myanmar government to issue travel documents to facilitate their return.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph said that even the country of their origin Myanmar has identified them and accepted them as its citizens.
Earlier on Wednesday, a fresh plea was moved in the Supreme Court seeking to restrain the Centre from deporting to Myanmar the seven Rohingyas lodged in a detention centre at Silchar in Assam.
The interim plea, seeking urgent measures to stop the proposed deportation of seven Rohingyas, was filed in a pending PIL. They were handed over at the Moreh border crossing in neighbouring Manipur state.
All the seven from Myanmar's Rakhine state were detained for violating the Foreigners Act, the ministry said. Around 700,00 Rohingyas fled from Myanmar and illegally took shelter in the nearby countries, mostly taking refuge in the Cox Bazar of Bangladesh.
Defence attorney Bhushan said the government should treat the Rohingya as refugees and not as illegal migrants and have a representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees visit and talk to them so that they were not deported under duress.
"These are not illegal immigrants but refugees who have migrated due to genocide in their country". State governments have been told to identify illegal Rohingya.
The petitioners' counsel Prashant Bhushan told the bench, as it started to dictate the order, that it was the court's responsibility to protect the Rohingya. This is the first deportation of Rohingya immigrants from India to Myanmar.
New Delhi's move has drawn criticism from the United Nations, which said their forcible return violates worldwide law.
Thousands of Rohingya refugees had fled their country after the military and Buddhist terrorists launched sustained attack against them by killings hundreds of them in Rakhine state.
"The Indian government has an global legal obligation to fully acknowledge the institutionalised discrimination, persecution, hate and gross human rights violations these people have faced in their country of origin and provide them the necessary protection", UN Special Rapporteur on racism, Tendayi Achiume, said in a statement.
An additional 40,000 Rohingya refugees are thought to be in India, though only 18,000 are registered with the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR.