Geneva– The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR on Friday slammed India’s deportation of seven Rohingya immigrants to Myanmar, saying they had been denied access to legal counsel, a chance to access asylum processing and have their claims assessed.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said at a press briefing here that the agency was “greatly concerned for the safety and security of seven Myanmar nationals who were returned to Myanmar on Thursday”.
India said that the men, who had been staying in Assam illegally since 2012, were deported on their “willingness”, constituting the first batch of such immigrants to be sent back to their homes.
“On learning of their detention and the planned return… the UNHCR requested the Indian authorities to grant access to this group to assess their need for international refugee protection,” Mahecic said, adding that the agency regretted that it did not receive a response to the request.
“The UNHCR continues to seek clarification from the (Indian) authorities on the circumstances under which these individuals were returned to Myanmar,” the spokesman said.
“The UN refugee agency is concerned that they did not have access to legal counsel, were not given the chance to access asylum processing and have their claims assessed in India,” he said.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have fled Myanmar in recent decades. In the latest refugee crisis, more than 720,000 Rohingya refugees found shelter in Bangladesh after escaping the Myanmar military crackdown in Rakhine province in August 2017.
The Myanmar military has been accused of “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” by various UN agencies, International Criminal Court officials, human rights groups and governments including the United States.
Mahecic said that conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine were not conducive for safe dignified and sustainable return of stateless Rohingya refugees. (IANS)