Inside the refugee camps of Rohingya Muslims who migrated to India and came to Hyderabad a couple of years ago.Inside the refugee camps of Rohingya Muslims who migrated to India and came to Hyderabad a couple of years ago.   | Photo Credit: G. Ramakrishna

Rohingya are an ethnic group from Myanmar, mostly Muslims, who are based in Rakhine province of West Myanmar. Myanmar has not granted them full citizenship and they are classified as “resident foreigners” or as “associate citizens.

They speak a dialect of Bengali as against Burmese. They left Myanmar in large numbers, first in 2012, during the first wave of organised attack against them by the Burmese army .The attacks revived last year when lakhs took shelter in Cox’s Bazaar area of Bangladesh. Around five lakh Rohingya have taken shelter in Saudi Arabia since 2012.

How many Rohingya are there in India?

Though there is no definite number but earlier home ministry told the Parliament that there are around 40,000 Rohingya in India, of which around 5,700 are in Jammu. Of these, only 16,000 are said to be registered with the United Nations. As per an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court on Thursday, there are at least 12 Rohingya in detention camps in Assam. In 2017, Border Security Force apprehended 87 Rohingya along the Bangladesh border and 76 were sent back to Bangladesh.

What is the process of deportation?

There are no separate rules for Rohingya. All illegal immigrants are detected, detained and deported under provisions of the Passport Act, 1920 or the Foreigners Act, 1946. The powers to identify and deport them have been delegated to the State governments/Union Territories. Once a ‘foreigner’ has been apprehended by the police for staying here illegally, without any document, he or she is produced before the local court. The court after hearing the police and the alleged foreigner examines the case. If the accused is found guilty, they can be imprisoned for three months to eight years.

Is there an advisory by union home ministry to States specific to the Rohingya?

On August 8, 2017, MHA wrote to all the States that “infiltration from Rakhine State of Myanmar into Indian territory specially in the recent years, besides being burden on the limited resources of the country also aggravates the security challenges posed to the country.” It also said that the rise of terrorism in last few decades has become a concern for most nations and illegal migrants are more vulnerable for getting recruited by terrorist organisations.

What happens after the completion of the sentence?

Once the accused have completed the sentence in jail, the court orders their deportation and they are moved to detention centres till the country of origin verifies and accepts them. The State government writes to the concerned country and consular access is provided to the detainees.

Was the deportation of seven Rohingya on Thursday the first instance?

While deportations of foreigners staying illegally have taken place earlier, this is the first time when Myanmar has accepted the Rohingya and issued them a certificate of identity two months ago. The seven persons were caught in 2012 in Assam. After they were moved to detention centre from a prison, they wrote to the Myanmar Embassy in 2016, expressing their desire to return to their country. The process of establishing their identity started then.

Did they give any undertaking?

All the seven Rohingya gave individual undertakings. Mohammad Jamal, one of the Rohingya who was deported said in the undertaking “I was satisfied with the facilities and amenities of the jail authorities, I am thankful to the administration for safe and comfortable departure to my country of origin.”

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