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MHA says Rohingya refugees must stay put, but plan to move them has been in discussion for a year

A plan to shift Rohingya refugees from the camp at Madanpur Khadar to the EWS flats in Bakkarwala in West Delhi has been in the works for more than a year now.

At a Rohingya camp in New Delhi, Wednesday. (Express photo by Gajendra Yadav)

Stepping in to deny any move to rehabilitate the Rohingya, hours after an announcement by Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri, the Ministry of Home Affairs said Wednesday that Rohingya refugees in Delhi’s Madanpur Khadar will stay put until they are deported.

Yet a plan to shift the refugees from the camp at Madanpur Khadar to the EWS flats in Bakkarwala in West Delhi has been in the works for more than a year now.

The idea was to turn the housing complex into a detention centre since the other two detention centres in the city did not have the capacity to house them.

On June 23, 2021, the Delhi Home Department wrote to the New Delhi Municipal Council, saying that the Foreigners Regional Registration Office, which comes under the MHA, had written to them in March that year asking that the EWS flats and a barat ghar at Bakkarwala be allotted to them to house “illegal foreigners/immigrants”. This was done after the FRRO and the Delhi government’s Social Welfare Department inspected the area and found it suitable for the purpose.

It is learnt that at a meeting held on July 29 this year in the Delhi Secretariat – it was chaired by Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar – the question of where the Rohingya refugees will stay became more urgent after a fire burnt down close to 50 hutments in the area in June 2021 and left 250 people without a roof over their heads.

This was the second fire in the hutments, the first being in 2018. After the first fire, the refugees had shifted from land belonging to the Zakat Foundation to some part of the land that was owned by the UP Irrigation Department. The UP government had been trying to remove the refugees from the land for several months.

After the fire, a discussion between the Delhi government’s revenue department, officials of the home department as well as the Delhi Police ensued to find a more permanent solution to the housing issue. It was suggested that the refugees be moved to rented accommodations in the area but the Delhi Police, it is learnt, said that the Rohingya refugees should stay in “close vicinity” for the police to ensure “regular enumeration/observation”.

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The matter was then discussed among top Delhi government officials, including the Divisional Commissioner, Chief Secretary and Additional Chief Secretary (Home), who then discussed it with the FRRO.

The Delhi government’s Home Department wrote to the NDMC in June, asking it to consider the request for the FRRO to hand over the flats at Bakkarwala. On August 2, 2021, NDMC said they were willing to do so. Thereafter, letters were sent to the District Magistrate as well as the Delhi Police to conduct a security audit of the refugees.

In a meeting held in January this year, chaired by the Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Delhi government, it was decided that the FRRO would run the complex and the Social Welfare Department would lend support.

In the meeting on July 29 this year, it was decided that NDMC would hand over the flats to FRRO after ensuring water supply and other basic arrangements. The NDMC was to take up the matter of rent with the civic body. The FRRO was to run the Bakkarwala complex as a detention centre. This was to be ready by August. FRRO and Delhi Police, in consultation with MHA, had to detain the immigrants in the detention centre.

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Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, meanwhile, said that the elected government and ministers were kept in the dark about the decision and that the Delhi government would not allow Rohingya to settle in Delhi.

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“It was found out that the elected Government of Delhi was deliberately kept in the dark by the favorite officers of the LG. It was even decided that the entire exercise will be undertaken by bypassing the concerned Home Minister of Delhi. File noting on this issue clearly shows how officers were instructed to send the file to the LG, bypassing the elected Government of Delhi,” Sisodia said.

First published on: 18-08-2022 at 04:35:28 am
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