Activists term the detentions ‘arbitrary’, write to UNHCR in Geneva to take up the matter with Indian government and avoid any further detentions
Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India
NEW DELHI — A number of Rohingya refugees have been detained by authorities over the past several days from different parts of India purportedly for the lack of valid documents, Rohingya activists and police have said.
Deputy Commissioner Police Dwarka Santosh Kumar Meena informed Clarion India that the police on Friday detained two Rohingya refugees and registered an FIR against them over violation of Foreigners Act. They were arrested from Hastal village in the Uttam Nagar area of New Delhi following a complaint by officials of the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO).
The FIR registered under section 14 of Foreigners Act describes the two refugees as “illegal immigrants” who entered India from Bangladesh in November 2020 and travelled to New Delhi from Agartala, the capital of Tripura. They have been identified as Hamid Hussain and Nabi Hussain who lived in Cox’s Bazar refugee camp since 2017 when they fled the violence in Myanmar.
“We have handed them over to the FRRO,” Meena said. “They will be held in a detention centre before they are deported.”
A few days back six refugees were detained, Deputy Commissioner of Police (East Delhi) Deepak Yadav said while speaking to Clarion India. “They have not been arrested but sent to a detention centre,” Yadav said, adding that an FIR has been registered in this connection but refused to disclose the sections invoked. Reports said one of the detained is a minor. According to Rohingya activists, they were detained from Anand Vihar Railway Station on January 6.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) has documented around 18,000 Rohingya refugees in India, but many more are unregistered due to the absence of a systematic recording system at Indian borders. They have been living in camps mainly in three cities — Jammu, New Delhi, and Hyderabad. Having been left out of civil documentation to determine their status forces many refugees to “keep a low profile” for safety and fear of deportation.
Bhartiya Janata Party leaders including ministers frequently make anti-Rohingya remarks dubbing them a security threat for India but Rohingya refugee groups have time and again issued statements denouncing terrorism or violence.
Rohingya activists have expressed concern over the police actions terming these detentions as “arbitrary”. Rohingya Refugee Committee (RRC), a group of Delhi based Rohingya activists have written to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva to take up the matter with Indian government urgently and press on the authorities to avoid any further detentions. The group has also appealed to the refugee body to consider the applications of new refugees.
A Rohingya activist, who wished not to be named said the authorities have intensified actions against refugees in the past several weeks. According to him, three refugees have been detained in Punjab, one in Haryana and “some in Jammu as well.”
Mohammad Usman, chairman of the RRC was picked up on Sunday by a team of men from FRRO. He was released after questioning for several hours and asked about new arrivals, one of his colleagues said.
The “harassment” of the refugees has sparked fear of deportation among the Rohingya community in India who say that the authorities have detained at least 45 refugees, including those who possess or had applied for the United Nations refugee card, since November last year.
The activists say they have raised the issue with the UNHRC in India “but have not yet received any satisfactory reply”. A young Rohingya activist who is a coordinator at the RRC said the agency is showing a lackadaisical approach in issuing fresh cards or renewing the expired ones.
Clarion India approached UNHRC New Delhi office for comment. If and when the response comes the story will be updated.
Refugee activists say that there are around 200 Rohingya, majority of them women and children, held in various detention centres in West Bengal, Assam and Manipur.