The Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested 74 Rohingya refugees on Monday morning in raids on refugee camps in the districts of Mathura, Aligarh, Ghaziabad, Hapur, Meerut, and Saharanpur.
The ATS said in a statement that the Rohingyas were living illegally in the state. The raid was conducted on the instructions of the state government and the Director General of Police after the ATS received information that Rohingyas were settling in the state after illegally crossing the border.
Among the people detained, 5 people are juveniles, 14 are women and 55 are men. A case has been registered against them as per the list released by UP ATS marked as “Rohingya Operation”. At least one of the arrested women is pregnant.
The Rohingya Human Rights Initiative (RHRI) claimed that around 200 refugees had been taken into custody. Describing the arrests as “arbitrary” and “unlawful,” the organization said in a statement that “more than 200 Rohingya refugees, including women, children, older persons, disabled persons, and pregnant women, have been unlawfully detained without any registered First Information Reports.”
The statement said that the refugees possess identity cards duly verified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), further underscoring their status as vulnerable individuals deserving of protection and assistance.
It also said that under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a party, for detention – including immigration detention – to not be arbitrary, it must be prescribed by law, necessary in the specific circumstances and proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued.
The RHRI urged the authorities to protect the safety and dignity of those detained.
Sabber Kyaw Min, the director of the RHRI, said, “We are survivors of genocide, we came here to seek refuge on a humanitarian basis, but we are being used as a political tool here.”
“No human is illegal on humanitarian grounds, we have documents to prove that we are refugees, and even if they don’t want to call us refugees, they should call us Myanmar residents instead of illegal immigrants,” he added.
Min said that the Rohingya refugees have been issued a refugee card by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, many of them have long-time visas, and their children who are born here are issued birth certificates. He said that all of this is not possible without the involvement of the Indian government.
He accused the Indian government of using the Rohingyas as a political tool to divert the public’s attention from the Manipur issue and to polarize the elections in favor of the ruling party.
“Whenever the Indian government wants they use us as their vote bank, and when need is fulfilled they call us illegal immigrants,” Min said.
He also questioned the involvement of the ATS in making the arrests. He said that the local police keep track of all the refugees living in any state, including their movements, and they could have made the arrests. He asked why the ATS, which deals with terror cases, was involved.
Min further said that if the Rohingyas are illegal immigrants as the government of India says, then the 200 Rohingyas in Jammu’s detention camp in the last 2 years should be deported back to their home country. However, he said that the Indian authorities are not letting them go.
In March 2021, more than 200 refugees were unlawfully jailed by the authorities without any grounds for detention. Out of them, 3 refugees died in detention and 2 were deported to Myanmar.
The Rohingya refugees in Hira Nagar sub-jail in Jammu, a notified holding centre, have been intermittently protesting against their continuous detention and demanding their release or deportation.
The RHRI urged the civil society, international community, and agencies to step up and speak for the rights of refugees. “It is very unfortunate to see the deafening silence,” Min said. “It is very shameful that India which boasts so much about being the biggest democracy has no room for humanity,” he added.
After Myanmar’s military perpetrated mass killings, rapes, and the burning of numerous Rohingya villages, hundreds of thousands of members of the minority community sought refuge in neighboring countries, including Bangladesh, which shares a border with India.