Caught in legal vacuum, Myanmar refugees in India fear repatriation

New Delhi, Mar 11 (efe-epa).- The dismantling of a Rohingya camp in the Indian capital on Thursday and the arrest of another group that fled after the coup in Myanmar have stoked refugee repatriation fears amid a legal vacuum in India.

The camp of 27 Rohingyas families who were seeking protection after their arrival on Wednesday in Delhi was dismantled hours after they visited the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in New Delhi.

Police cleared the improvised facility in front of the UNHCR headquarters at 2.52 am, and some 70 people were transported by buses, Rohingya activist Sabber Kyaw Min told EFE.

The arrival in Delhi of the ethnic minority group, which had initially settled in the northern Jammu and Kashmir region, was preceded by the arrest of some hundred refugees and their transfer to detention centers for eventual deportation.

“The Rohingyas are fleeing due to fear of the police,” Kyaw Min, who heads the nonprofit Rohingya Human Rights Initiative, told EFE.

The situation was aggravated by Hindu extremist groups, especially in the Jammu region, who have started a hate campaign against this mostly Muslim minority, referring to them as “a threat”.

The number of refugees detained by the police is said to be 168, as circulated by the media.

However, according to the refugees, the actual number is somewhere around 250, the activist said.

India, which is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and lacks a legal framework for its protection, has on several occasions expressed its intention to repatriate members of this ethnic minority community.

In 2018, the government deported seven of them to Myanmar, where they face persecution.

In Jammu, “the police have given us a five-day ultimatum to wrap up any unfinished work here,” a refugee told the nonprofit without revealing his name.

“We don’t know what is going to happen to us after that.”

According to the NGO records, there are currently 27 registered settlements with about 1,783 families, that is, about 7,600 Rohingya people residing in different settlements in Jammu.

The legal vacuum that these refugees find themselves in has drawn the attention of human rights organizations, especially concerning the Rohingyas and other Myanmar citizens who fled the country after the military coup on Feb.1.

“Because of the repression in Myanmar, a number of people who fled from Myanmar to Mizoram includes police personnel who refuse to obey orders from the junta,” Suhas Chakma, from the nonprofit National Campaign Against Torture, told EFE.

The situation of the asylum seekers is uncertain, according to Chakma.

The vulnerable Rohingya is in a “very bad” situation, he underlined.

While more than 100 Rohingyas were arrested in Jammu, most likely for repatriation, there are other refugees from Myanmar in Mizoram who are being assisted by the district authorities.

“India policies is not the same for all refugees from Myanmar. If you are of Chin ethnicity, obviously you are not in detention, but if you are a Rohingya, you are in detention,” Chakma remarked.

The activist believes that the refugees require formal status and a concrete state to bring an end to the uncertainty that has pushed them to travel to the national capital, home to major international agencies, and the country’s highest courts.

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