The UNHCR has also urged the Indian government not to detain or deport the refugees
Twenty seven of 31 Rohingya including 16 children arrested by Tripura Police on Tuesday are registered as refugees with the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency has said.
The UNHCR has also urged the Indian government to respect the principle of “non-refoulement” - the principle of global law that disallows the repatriation of refugees to a country where they are liable to be persecuted - and not detain or deport the refugees.
The group of Rohingya were arrested by the Tripura Police after they were stranded for almost four days between the border fence and the international border with Bangladesh and a standoff ensued between the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) and India’s Border Security Force (BSF).
The group was detained by the BGB on January 18 which alleged that they were pushed into Bangladesh by BSF. The BGB pushed the group back to the Indian side of the international border, according to officials. The BSF said the Rohingya infiltrated from Bangladesh. They were later handed over to the Tripura police.
“27 among them were registered with UNHCR as refugees and four young children are not registered,” the UNCHR said in an email to HT responding to queries about their status. According to UNHCR, the group was living in Jammu for the last several years.
Some members of the group had earlier acknowledged that they were living in Jammu and had planned to cross the border illegally to Bangladesh fearing deportation to Myanmar after the Indian government sent back another group earlier this month.
According to UNHCR, “a family of five Rohingya was returned to Myanmar in January 2019” despite being “registered with UNHCR as asylum seekers”. The family had been detained in Tezpur in central Assam.
Meanwhile, Tripura Police officials said the group continues to be in judicial custody and their UNHCR identity cards are being verified. “The Rohingyas were arrested for violation of the Indian Passports Act. Without a valid passport, no foreign nationals are allowed to enter India,” said Ajay Kumar Das, Sub Divisional Police Officer, Amtali.
The UNHCR said refugees and asylum seekers are often forced to flee without proper documents and should not be denied asylum merely on the basis of irregular entry. “UNHCR advocates that the principle of non-refoulement is respected and Rohingya refugees and asylum seekers are not detained or deported under the Foreigners Act, to a place where their lives would be in danger,” UNHCR said urged their release.