Supreme Court refuses to stop deportation of 7 Rohingya Muslims

Security increased around the border area in Moreh. Image courtesy Sunzu Bachaspatimayum

Security increased around the border area in Moreh. Image courtesy Sunzu Bachaspatimayum

The court's move came after Mohammad Salimullah, a Rohingya refugee living in India, moved a plea Wednesday seeking to restrain the Central government from deporting seven refugees who completed their jail term in Assam for illegally entering the country. They were apprehended in July 2012 for violating the Foreigners' Act and were placed in detention at the Silchar Central Jail since then.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government has described illegal Rohingya immigrants as posing a national security threat, and ordered state governments previous year to identify and deport them.

The Rohingya immigrants will be handed over to the Myanmar authorities in Moreh border post in Manipur on Thursday.

Officials in India say two Rohingya men were sent back in August - but this has not been confirmed by Myanmar.

"It is a matter of Article 21 and it is the responsibility of the Court..."

Around 40,000 Rohingya live in India after having fled persecution in Myanmar over the years.

The UN says there are 16,000 registered Rohingya in India, but many more are undocumented.

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that the men were "illegal immigrants" and negotiations were held with Myanmar to take them back.

"These are not illegal immigrants but refugees who have migrated due to genocide in their country".

Almost 200 Rohingya are known to be detained in India on charges of illegal entry, Achiume said.

Bhushan added that even United Nations have termed it was a worst kind of genocide in which many Rohingya have been killed and their properties destroyed.

"Even the country of their origin has accepted them as its citizens", Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph said, adding that they would not like to interfere with the government's decision.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government has described undocumented Rohingya immigrants as posing a national security threat and asked state governments past year to identify and deport them.

The Chief Justice of India heard the case first at the request of Prashant Bhushan, who argued that the deportation should be stayed. In the plea filed, he said that the Supreme Court must realise the responsibility it has to protect the right to life for Rohingyas.

"You don't have to remind us of our responsibilities, Mr. Bhushan".

The ministry said in a statement that Myanmar's government had identified the seven men as "residents" of Myanmar, and provided "Certificates of Identity to facilitate the travel of these individuals to their hometowns in Rakhine state".

The interim plea, seeking urgent measures to stop the proposed deportation of seven Rohingyas, was filed in a pending PIL. "Let a United Nations officer go talk to them first. if they still want to go back, let them", Mr. Bhushan submitted.

The Rohingya community is a Muslim minority, and has faced repeated bouts persecution and violence in its native Myanmar, which is predominantly Buddhist.

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