NEW DELHI: India on Thursday dismissed as “misleading" and “incorrect" a statement by the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) slamming New Delhi for the recent repatriation of five Rohingyas to Myanmar.
Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said that the repatriation “of illegal immigrants to their country of origin is in accordance with Indian laws."
“These actions are being taken in response to the instructions of India's Courts, which have required Government at the State and Union levels to detect, detain and deport illegal immigrants. In this sense, Government will continue to take actions as may be necessary in implementation of Indian laws, and as directed by our Judiciary," Kumar said.
Kumar’s comments were in response to a statement by the OHCHR condemning the Indian move to send back the five Rohingyas and “urged the authorities to stop such forced deportations which are prohibited under international law."
“On 3 January 2019, India separated and forcibly returned five...members of the family to Myanmar," the statement said.
"We are dismayed by the decision of the Indian Government to continue forced returns of Rohingya to Myanmar, where they face high risk of attacks, reprisals and other forms of persecution because of their ethnic and religious identity," said the statement by a group of UN experts.
“Under international law, the principle of non-refoulement prohibits States from forcing individuals to return to countries when there are substantial grounds for believing that they would be at risk of persecution, torture, ill-treatment or other serious human rights violations," the statement said.
"The deportation of Rohingya to Myanmar speaks to a system of refugee status determination that fails to account for the ongoing, credible reports of ethnic and religious minority persecution in that country," the statement quoting the UN experts said.
"We also remain concerned with the systemic use of indefinite detention of Rohingya in India, which is indicative of the unacceptable conditions of discrimination and intolerance they face in the country where they have sought refuge," the statement added.
India’s first deportation of seven Rohingya men to Myanmar happened in October and it had sparked fears of further repatriations among those sheltering in Indian refugee camps. It followed India’s Supreme Court refusing to stop the deportation of the seven.
Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been fleeing the Rakhine State on Myanmar’s western coast for years, often caught between the military and Rohingya insurgents who have fought a bloody war for years. The refugees mostly landed in Bangladesh, but some did cross over into India also.
India estimates that 40,000 Rohingya live in the country in camps across the country, including the capital, New Delhi, having arrived over the years after fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar, which denies them citizenship.
In August, a UN report accused the Myanmar military of mass killings and rapes of Rohingya with “genocidal intent" in 2017 in an operation that drove more than 700,000 of them to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, according to UN agencies. Myanmar has denied the charges, saying its military launched a counter-insurgency operation after attacks on security posts by Muslim militants in August last year.
Reuters contributed to this story.