The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has sought clarification from India over its decision to repatriate a group of Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar on Thursday. The group had been detained in Assam and had been serving a prison term since 2013 for illegal entry into India. This was the second such step by India since October 2018. The agency wants to know under what circumstances were the asylum seekers sent back.
In a press briefing, the agency’s spokesman Farhan Haq said it “regrets India’s decision to repatriate a family of Rohingya asylum seekers to Myanmar, the second such return in three months.” He said despite repeated requests for access to the individuals in detention, the UNHCR did not receive any response from the Indian authorities. The agency had wanted to ascertain their circumstances and assess their decision to return.
Haq further said that the United Nations wants to ensure that whenever any family is returned, the nature of the return was voluntary. He said the UNHCR was very much concerned because it was not able to assess the voluntary nature of their return.
The repatriation of the Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar is regarded controversial. The conditions for their return is currently negative. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed. The Rohingya continue to face restrictions and abuse. Moreover, there is little to no sign of accountability or a path to citizenship as demanded by Rohingya who were forced to run for their lives.
More than 40 humanitarian organizations working on the ground in Bangladesh have warned that returning the Rohingya to their homes now would be dangerous and premature. The UNHCR reiterates that current conditions in Myanmar are not conducive ‘to voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return of refugees’.
Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court is investigating the crimes against the Rohingya. The United States has also already placed sanctions on Myanmar military and border guard officials and the two army battalions that led the attacks on Rohingya civilians.
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