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India moves to deport Rohingya girl to Myanmar, draws criticism

by Reuters
Thursday, 1 April 2021 13:11 GMT

By Devjyot Ghoshal and Zarir Hussain

NEW DELHI, April 1 (Reuters) - A 14-year-old Rohingya Muslim girl has been taken to a border town in northeastern India for deportation to Myanmar, police officials said on Thursday, as the U.N. refugee agency and rights groups pressed New Delhi to halt the process.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya, who are denied citizenship in their home country Myanmar, have lived in India for years but Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government regards them as a security threat and has started detaining them.

Police have taken the girl to a border crossing in Manipur state, where paperwork was being finalised to send her back to coup-hit Myanmar. She had been sheltered for more than a year in the neighbouring Indian state of Assam, while her family lived as refugees in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar.

"It is under process," Assam police official B.L. Meena told Reuters, referring to her deportation. "This was previously scheduled."

Diba Roy, founder of non-profit Nivedita Nari Sangshta in Assam's Silchar town that had cared for the girl, said local authorities had been informed that she did not have family in Myanmar.

"But she was sent to Myanmar," Roy said, adding that she had received instructions from federal authorities to hand over the girl to local police this week. "We have only obeyed the order."

India's foreign and home ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, opposed the deportation.

"The situation in Myanmar is not yet conducive for voluntary return in a safe, secure, and sustainable manner, and returning the child to Myanmar may place her at immediate risk of serious harm," a UNHCR spokesperson said.

Police in India's northern region of Jammu and Kashmir last month detained more than 150 Rohingya refugees and started a process to deport them back to Myanmar.

India is not a signatory to the U.N. Refugee Convention and rejects a U.N. position that deporting the Rohingya violates the principle of refoulement – sending refugees back to a place where they face danger. (Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal in NEW DELHI and Zarir Hussain in GUWAHATI, Additional reporting by Ruma Paul in DHAKA; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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