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Rohingya get ‘nationality verification’ forms, they call it a grim reminder

The five-page form comes against the backdrop of the Ministry of Home Affairs advisory to states to take steps in identifying illegal Rohingya migrants and initiate deportation processes.

Written by Somya Lakhani | New Delhi |
Updated: November 23, 2017 10:05:18 am
Rohingya get ‘nationality verification’ forms The form comes in the backdrop of an MHA advisory. (Express Photo)

A “nationality verification” form sent out by the Delhi Police to Rohingya living in the capital a fortnight ago has caused some discomfiture within the community. The form comes against the backdrop of the Ministry of Home Affairs issuing an advisory on August 8, titled ‘Identification of illegal migrants and monitoring thereof’, which had asked states to “take prompt steps in identifying illegal migrants and initiate deportation processes expeditiously and without delay”.

“We have no clarity on which body has asked the police to send us these forms. When we first got the forms, many from the community refused to fill them, fearing that it could lead to us being sent back to Myanmar. We convinced those people and submitted the forms,” said 29-year-old Sabbir, founder of the Rohingya Human Rights Initiative (ROHRIngya).

The five-page form has questions pertaining to education details, occupation before leaving Myanmar, colour of eyes and hair, Myanmar home address, details of leaving the country, place of departure from Myanmar or Bangladesh, mode of transport, passport details and case details of Myanmar nationals arrested.

There is also a question on “name, address and telephone number of travel agent or any other person/agency involved in sending the individual to India”. DCP (southeast) Romil Baaniya said, “This census happens from time to time, and is a routine exercise to know the number of people living in the area from that community”. Abdul Khan, 29, who lives in Vikaspuri, said, “We have the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) refugee card, but the form doesn’t even ask us our status. It paints everyone with the same brush.”

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Hearing a plea filed by two Rohingya Muslim refugees, who had challenged the Centre’s decision to deport them on October 13, the Supreme Court had deferred the hearing on the matter, but had allowed the petitioners to approach it in case of any emergency. Thirty-two-year-old Mohammad Ismail, who lived in Khajuri and came to Delhi in 2009, said the form “brings back memories of filling similar forms every six months when he lived in Rakhine State in Myanmar”.

“Those forms would ask us to fill in the colour of our eyes, specific identification marks. We condemned it because it deemed us as outsiders — not citizens of Myanmar. In Delhi, with this form, we fear they might be collecting this data to deport us,” he said.

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