Human Rights Watch on Thursday condemned the Indian government’s forced return of an ethnic Rohingya woman to Myanmar, pointing out that international law prohibits the forced return of refugees to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened.
Hasina Begum, 36, was deported on 22 March despite a March 21, 2022 order by the Manipur State Human Rights Commission putting the deportation on hold.
The commission said that the plan to deport her appeared on its face to violate the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed by the Indian constitution and article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the principle of nonrefoulement, or non-return.
Begum, her husband and three children are all registered as refugees with UNHCR. She was among the Rohingyans detained by Jammu and Kashmir authorities on 06 March last year. They were sent them to a holding centre, ahead of the Indian government’s plan to deport them.
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has reported that at least 240 Rohingya in India are currently detained on charges of illegal entry.
In addition, about 39 are being detained in a shelter in Delhi while 235 others are detained in a holding centre in Jammu.
According to HRW, Hasina Begum’s husband, Ali Johar, after learning that she might be deported, wrote to UNHCR, appealing for the agency to intervene. He said he had not received a response.
UNHCR officials told Human Rights Watch that they had contacted the Indian authorities about the case.
A public anti-Rohingya campaign by Hindu nationalist groups, claiming that the Rohingya Muslims are “terrorists,” has incited vigilante-style violence, including arson attacks on the homes of Rohingya in Jammu and Delhi.
In 2018 following a fire in a Rohingya settlement in Delhi that burned at least 50 homes, a leader from the youth wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party applauded the action on Twitter, saying “Well done by our heroes…Yes, we burnt the houses of Rohingya terrorists.”
Although India is not a party to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, the prohibition of refoulement has become a norm of customary international law that India is bound to respect, states HRW.