At least 1,300 Rohingya Muslims have crossed into Bangladesh from India since the start of the year, an official said Wednesday, as fears of deportation to Myanmar spark an exodus.
New Delhi has faced sharp criticism for turning members of the persecuted minority over to Myanmar in recent weeks, despite the army there being accused of atrocities against the Rohingya.
The United Nations and rights groups accused India of disregarding international law and returning the Rohingya to possible danger in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
India, which is not a signatory to the U.N. Refugee Convention, arrested 230 Rohingya in 2018 — the most in years as Hindu hardliners called for the displaced Muslims to be deported en masse.
The round-ups in India, and fear of deportation to Myanmar, have driven even more of the stateless Muslims into Bangladesh, where a million Rohingya live in giant refugee camps in the country’s southeast.
Nayana Bose, a spokeswoman for the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), which includes U.N. agencies and other foreign humanitarian organizations, said the pace of new arrivals had escalated since January 3.
“Some 1,300 individuals from 300 families have arrived from India to Bangladesh until today,” she told AFP.
The new arrivals were being housed in a U.N. transit center, she added.
UNHCR spokesman Firas Al-Khateeb said the U.N. refugee agency was “aware of the situation”.
Those crossing the border in recent weeks have been detained by police and sent to Cox’s Bazar, a southern district home to the world’s largest refugee camps.
India's dire policy of forcing Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar, where they face serious threats, is pushing others to flee to the already-crowded Cox's bazaar settlement in Bangladesh https://t.co/Nbsrz1NE63
— Nicholas Dawes (@NicDawes) January 10, 2019
Why This Matters
Some 40,000 Rohingya have been living in India. Police said those who arrived were living in India for years.
Rohingya for decades have faced persecution and pogroms in Myanmar, which refuses to recognize them as citizens and falsely labels them “Bengali” illegal immigrants.
They were concentrated in Rakhine state, the epicenter of a brutal Myanmar army offensive in August 2017 that U.N. investigators described as genocidal in intent.
At least 720,000 Rohingya fled the bloody crackdown and entered Bangladesh to join some 300,000 already living in the camps.
Amnesty International, among other rights groups, has blasted India for forcibly repatriating the Rohingya to Myanmar when persecution in Rakhine is ongoing.
Dozens of Rohingya were also deported from Saudi Arabia to Bangladesh last week. They were arrested for illegally using Bangladeshi passports to travel to the kingdom.
More on the Subject
The fate of nearly four million people in the Indian state of Assam came into question on July 30, when the National Register of Citizens, a government-maintained list of citizens in the state, was updated.
The register lists people who have valid documents to prove that they had entered India by March 24, 1971, a day before neighboring Bangladesh declared independence, a phenomenon preceded by a massive number of Bangladeshis fleeing for life and taking shelter in safe havens in India.
Anyone who sought refuge after that cut-off date is not entitled to Indian citizenship. During the turbulent days of 1971, the Indian forces were understood to have supported the liberation of Bangladesh, then known as East Pakistan, from its parent country Pakistan.
The Union government of India, led by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which also rules in Assam, has claimed that the information exercise is aimed at identifying illegal entrants to India from neighboring Bangladesh.
But rights groups allege that this is nothing but a witch-hunt against Muslim minorities in the state, done with the malevolent intention of widening the ongoing communal discourse in the country and reaping the dividends in next year’s general election, which the BJP is no longer expected to win comfortably.