The presence of 40,000 Rohingya immigrants in India following their persecution in Myanmar, has given rise to certain problems relating to their status. On Thursday, Union Home Minister Rajth Singh said that the Rohingya people in India were illegal immigrants and not refugees, and wanted to know why some people were objecting to their possible deportation even when Myanmar had expressed willingness to take them back. At a semir organized in New Delhi by the tiol Human Rights Commission, Rajth Singh said, “Rohingyas are not refugees but illegal immigrants. It is not an issue of human rights as they did not come to India after following proper procedure. No Rohingya has applied for asylum.” Even going by earlier precedents, India does not technically consider any illegal immigrant as a refugee since, as the Centre has stressed in the Supreme Court, New Delhi never signed the United tions’ 1951 Refugee Convention. What does not seem to have helped matters very much is that some 15,000 of the 40,000 illegal Rohingya immigrants are registered with the United tions as refugees in India, and New Delhi has traditiolly issued long-term visas to illegal immigrants registered as non-economic refugees with the UN. These 15,000 among the Rohingyas who have registered with the UN, could mage to do so because they were able to furnish some sort of identity document, though it is not clear whether such documents would be acceptable to Myanmar. In any case, the argument put forward by Indian and intertiol opponents of any possible deportation of the Rohingyas is not that Myanmar would refuse to accept them, but rather that they are likely to be persecuted if sent back. What emerges very clearly in such human rights situations is that the fears and perceptions of refugees and even illegal immigrants far outweigh bilateral relationships between neighbouring countries or intertiol laws governing such matters. Not surprisingly, the tiol Human Rights Commission had recently issued a notice to the Centre advising against any move to deport the 40,000 Rohingyas, justifying its “intervention” on the ground that the matter was related to human rights. This was the stand of senior members of the Commission, despite what Union Home Minister Rajth Singh had to say on the subject. He was of the view that India would not be violating any intertiol law if it deported the Rohingyas, since India was not sigtory to the 1951 UN Convention. He emphasized the fact that the issue related to “tiol security”, and that a sovereign tion was free to act against illegal migrants. “The issue of deportation of Rohingyas for India is not a matter of ego and confrontation but of principles. Those who, in the me of human rights, are expressing concern on the rights of others should bother first for the rights of the citizens of India... The citizens of the country have the first right on its resources—not the illegal migrants,” he added.
India seems to have got into some kind of a “big brother” role without seeking such a status. As a result, persecuted citizens of all neighbouring countries entertain the hope that they can always flee to India either as refugees or as illegal migrants at times of crisis. And since even responsible senior citizens of India envisage such a role for India, it has become extremely important for the country to ensure that our borders are so well protected as to make any large-scale illegal migration into the country virtually impossible. This is a security measure that neither the people of India nor any of its neighbouring countries can honestly object to. The very idea of permitting such large-scale illegal immigration to take place due to lax border security provisions, militates against the fundamental imperatives of the country’s security.