The UN refugee agency has expressed regret over India’s decision to repatriate a group of Rohingya to Myanmar, saying it has sought clarification from India on the circumstances under which the asylum seekers were sent back, voicing concern over the unconducive conditions for such returns.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Friday that it “regrets India’s decision to repatriate a family of Rohingya asylum seekers to Myanmar, the second such return in three months,” Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, Farhan Haq told reporters at the daily press briefing.
The UN refugee agency said a family of Rohingya asylum-seekers from Rakhine State, registered with UNHCR in India, was sent back to Myanmar on Thursday after being detained in Assam, where they had been serving a prison term since 2013 for illegal entry into India.
The agency said despite repeated requests, it did not receive a response from the authorities in India regarding requests for access to individuals in detention to ascertain their circumstances and to assess the voluntariness of their decision to return.
Noting that this was the second such incident since October 2018, when India returned seven Rohingya men to Rakhine State in Myanmar, the agency said conditions are not conducive for return of Rohingya to Myanmar.
“UNHCR continues to request access and seek clarification on the circumstances under which the return has taken place,” the agency added.
There are an estimated 18,000 Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in India, living across different locations.
Responding to a question on the Rohingya being returned to Myanmar, Haq said the UN wants to ensure that whenever any family is returned, the nature of the return was voluntary. “And UNHCR was not able to assess the voluntary nature of that return, and so they are very concerned about this,” he said.
When asked if the Secretary-General intends to talk directly to India over the issue since the UN refugee agency has “failed”, Haq replied “I wouldn’t say that UNHCR has failed. What I would say is that there’s movements on the ground about which they are concerned, but they are in charge of this particular file, and we’ll see how it goes with their efforts.”
Assam Additional Director General of Police (Border) Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta has said in Guwahati that the five members of the Rohingya family were handed over to the Myanmarese authorities along the International Border in Manipur.
“They were apprehended about five years ago without any travel document and were booked for violating the Foreigners Act,” Mahanta has said.