YANGON — The authorities in India have said seven Rohingya men detained since 2012 for immigration violations would be deported to Myanmar on October 4 in a move criticised by the United Nations.
The seven are the first group to be deported since the Indian government ordered last year that all Rohingya be sent back under a decision being challenged in the country’s Supreme Court on the grounds it is unconstitutional, media reports said.
The Times of India, which reported that Indian home ministry officials had declined to confirm if the seven were Rohingya Muslims, said their deportation was arranged after Myanmar verified their addresses and issued them with travel permits.
They were due to sent back via Moreh in India’s Manipur State to Tamu in Sagaing Region, the main land border crossing between the two countries.
The seven have been held at a detention centre at Silchar in Assam since 2012 when they were arrested, India’s Economic Times reported. It quoted police as saying they had entered India illegally from Bangladesh about ten years ago.
The decision to deport the Rohingya was criticised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and also the UN special rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, Ms Tendayi Achiume, who said India risked breaching its international obligations by returning the men to possible harm.
“Given the ethnic identity of the men, this is a flagrant denial of their right to protection and could amount to refoulement,” Achiume said in a statement, AFP reported.
Achiume said she was “appalled” at the length of time the men had been detained. She said about 200 Rohingya were known to be in custody in India on illegal entry charges.
The UN says there are 16,000 registered Rohingya in India but many more are undocumented. New Delhi says there are 40,000 Rohingya in India and has described their presence as a security threat.