What will become of Jammu’s Rohingya refugees?

Around 170 Rohingya refugees have been detained by Jammu Police, they allegedly did not have “valid documents”

Image Courtesy:hindustantimes.com

Detained over the weekend, nearly 170 Rohingya refugees face deportation. They were detained by Jammu Police who will reportedly hold them for verification. According to news reports many more Rohingya refugees have now left their camps in Jammu, fearing deportation.

According to a news report in the Indian Express, around 170 Rohingya refugees were detained by Jammu Police on Saturday. These people reportedly did not have “valid documents”. According to  the IE, the police action was carried out while collecting biometric details of the refugees from Myanmar. Hindustan Times quoted Inspector General of Police (Jammu) Mukesh Singh as saying, “These immigrants were not holding valid travel documents required in terms of Section (3) of the Passports Act.” Those detained are now lodged at the Hiranagar sub-jail under Section 3 (2) (e) of the Foreigners Act. According to IGP Singh, “Their nationality verification will be done as per the prescribed norms,” adding that “the process to deport these illegal immigrants will be initiated.” 

According to the IE, around 5,000-6,000 Rohingya have set up camps at various sites on the outskirts of Jammu over the past decade. They have all arrived here citing “extreme persecution” back home in Myanmar, and the latest detetions have “triggered despair and anger.” On Sunday, stated the news report, a large number of Rohingyas marched from Narwal towards Mecca Masjid in the Bhatindi area, accusing police of asking them to step out of their homes again for verification. “If the Indian government tells us to leave, we will return to our native land,” Abu Ahmed, a Rohingya, told The Indian Express, adding, “But there should be no harassment there as we had fled Myanmar due to extreme persecution.”

According to the Hindustan Times, the verification process, which began at MA Stadium in Jammu on Saturday, and those who underwent it reported that the police collected personal information from them. “The officials sought details like my name, parentage, where I lived in Myanmar,” a woman identified Sabina told the HT

Another man, Mohammad Haroon, another Rohingya refugee, was quoted saying, they were all asked to reach MA Stadium with their families, and then “They took our details from the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] cards and also conducted Covid tests.”

The Print reported that “hundreds of refugees started leaving the relief camps fearing detention”. Abdul Rohim, who had been staying in a camp since 2014, told ThePrint, “We left the camps and started walking on the highway. We don’t know where to. We have nowhere to go. We can’t go back to our country [Myanmar].” According to the HT, journalists have been denied access to the stadium.   

As reported by SabrangIndia in January this year, 10 Rohingya migrants including five minors and two women were detained on board the Delhi-bound Rajdhani special train. They had boarded the train from Agartala in Tripura and were deboarded at the next station that is New Jalpaiguri station in West Bengal, where they were arrested and handed over to the Government Railway Police. According to Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR) Chief Public Relations Officer Subhanan Chanda, “The foreign nationals crossed over to India’s Tripura on January 10 from Comilla in Bangladesh and boarded a train from Agartala with the help of an agent. They had come from Kutupalong refugee camp located in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.”  These  arrests came after a few days of the arrest of two refugees identified as Hamid Hussain (23) and Nabi Hussain (22) in New Delhi. They were caught along with a man named Muhammed Umo who claims to be a “refugee coordinator”. These two refugees allegedly entered India from Bangladesh on November 1, 2020, and were working as daily-wage labourers. All the arrested illegal migrants and refugees have been booked under various provisions of the Foreigners Act.

On Sunday March 7, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Jammu and Kashmir unit chief Ravinder Raina was quoted by the IE, saying that the police action was taken following a request from Myanmar’s External Affairs Ministry to deport the Rohingya back for resettlement. According to Raina, “Anyone who has to leave his native land will certainly be happy to return home.”

However, at Kiryani Talab in Narwal on the outskirts of Jammu city, there are family members of those detained who are still waiting. The IE reported a heartbreaking story of four young children who do not know where their parents are. “We cried and fell asleep without having food. I still don’t know where they are or when they will return,’’ says Mohammad-ul-Hassan, 11, who is suddenly “in charge” of his siblings Jaibullah (8), Noor Hassan (7) and Asma Jan (4).


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