India makes U-turn after minister announces housing for Rohingya refugees
Srinagar, India, Aug 17 (EFE).- The Indian government Wednesday denied it was providing houses to Rohingyas living in tents in the national capital and said that the refugees from Myanmar would be put in detention centers before deportation.
The denial comes hours after Hardeep Singh Puri, a senior federal minister, said the refugees putting up in shabby tented accommodation in Delhi would be allotted apartments and provided with police protection.
The union minister for housing and urban affairs tweeted that “all Rohingya refugees will be shifted to” the flats intended for economically disadvantaged households in Bakkarwala village in the west of the capital.
Puri described the move as a “landmark decision,” adding that the Rohingya refugees “will be provided basic amenities, UNHCR IDs and round-the-clock (police) security.”
“India has always welcomed those who have sought refuge in the country,” he said.
However, the minister’s announcement invited sharp reactions from Twitter users who criticized the government’s decision to accommodate the Muslim minority community that fled a brutal persecution campaign in Myanmar.
The union home ministry clarified that the government “has not given any directions to provide” flats to “Rohingya illegal migrants” in Delhi.
The central government “has directed the (government of national capital territory) to ensure that the Rohingya illegal foreigners will continue at the present location,” the ministry tweeted.
The home ministry said it had taken up the matter of their deportation with the Myanmar authorities.
“Illegal foreigners are to be kept in detention centers till their deportation as per law. The government of Delhi has not declared the present location as a detention center. They have been directed to do the same immediately,” it added.
Rohingya refugees have faced a months-long crackdown in India.
Rights organizations accuse ultranationalist Hindu groups in India of targeting the refugees in the country as part of an alleged rising anti-Muslim campaign.
The groups have demanded that the Rohingyas be expelled from India.
There is no clear data on the number of Rohingyas in India, although the country is home to an estimated 40,000 Myanmar refugees.
At least 20,000 of them have been registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Following a brutal military campaign in Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority country, a substantial number of the ethnic minority population migrated to neighboring nations, mostly Bangladesh.
According to Human Rights Watch, since October 2018, India has deported 12 Rohingyas to Myanmar, claiming that they left voluntarily.
Activists say that authorities have detained more than 150 Rohingyas in Indian-administered Kashmir’s Jammu city over the last year.
India is not a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention and does not recognize the Refugee Cards issued by the UNHCR.
It means Rohingyas within India do not have a right to seek government-distributed food grains or ration, jobs, housing, and education.