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Minister calls Rohingya ‘refugees’, later ‘illegal foreigners’: Puri announces housing for Rohingya in Delhi, backs down after Home denial

MHA says they will be kept in detention centre until deportation

At a Rohingya refugee camp in Delhi. (Express Photo: Gajendra Yadav, File)

Hours after he announced Wednesday that Rohingya “refugees” would be provided housing and police protection in Delhi, Hardeep Singh Puri, Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs, was left red-faced Wednesday after the Home Minister’s Office denied any such move, and said “illegal foreigners” will be kept in a detention centre until their deportation.

Puri backed down, saying “Home Ministry’s press release with respect to the issue of Rohingya illegal foreigners gives out the correct position”.

On Wednesday morning, Puri announced that Rohingya refugees would be shifted to EWS flats in the Bakkarwala area of West Delhi.

In a Twitter post at 7.32 am, in which he tagged the Prime Minister’s Office, Puri said, “India has always welcomed those who have sought refuge in the country. In a landmark decision all #Rohingya #Refugees will be shifted to EWS flats in Bakkarwala area of Delhi. They will be provided basic amenities, UNHCR IDs & round-the-clock @DelhiPolice protection.” Posting a clip of a report by news agency ANI which quoted unnamed officials saying around 1100 Rohingya staying in tents will soon be shifted into flats, Puri even took a swipe at critics of the government.

“Those who made a career out of spreading canards on India’s refugee policy deliberately linking it to #CAA will be disappointed. India respects & follows @UN Refugee Convention 1951 & provides refuge to all, regardless of their race, religion or creed,” he said. In this tweet, he tagged the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh.

More than seven hours later, at 2.50 pm, the office of Union Home Minister Amit Shah denied that the government had taken any such decision.

In a series of tweets, the Home Minister’s Office said, “With respect to news reports in certain sections of media regarding Rohingya illegal foreigners, it is clarified that Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has not given any directions to provide EWS flats to Rohingya illegal migrants at Bakkarwala in New Delhi.”

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It clarified that the government was in fact trying to deport them.

“Govt of Delhi proposed to shift the Rohingyas to a new location. MHA has directed the GNCTD to ensure that the Rohingya illegal foreigners will continue at the present location as MHA has already taken up the matter of their deportation with the concerned country through MEA.”

“Illegal foreigners are to be kept in Detention Centre till their deportation as per law. The Government of Delhi has not declared the present location as a Detention Centre. They have been directed to do the same immediately,” it said.

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An almost identical statement, headlined ‘Rohingya illegal foreigners’, was issued later by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

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Puri’s announcement came as a surprise to many because the Centre has largely maintained a non-accommodative stance on the Rohingya refugees, even calling them a security threat. It has consistently pushed for their return to Myanmar and has even been in talks with Bangladesh and Myanmar for their repatriation.

First published on: 17-08-2022 at 03:26:05 pm
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