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Don't Want India To Become Refugee Capital: Govt to SC On Rohingyas

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| January 31 , 2018 , 17:37 IST

The Government on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it did not want India to become the world's refugee capital. The Government told the Supreme Court that the issue regarding deportation of Rohingyas from Myanmar was better left to be decided diplomatically.

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta made the statement in response to allegations made by advocate Prashant Bhushan appearing for two Rohingya refugees that Border Security Force officers were “pushing back” their compatriots using chilli spray and stun grenades.

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The bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, comprising Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud sought the response from the centre on the matter.

Senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan, the counsel for the Rohingya petitioners, pointed out that it was against India’s international and humanitarian commitments to welcome refugees fleeing persecution from Myanmar with violence.

“The conditions are inhumane, and there is no access to either schools or hospitals,” he said, referring to the sorry state of Rohingya refugee camps in India.

Tushar Mehta urged the court that it should not interfere in the matter as the "constitutionally empowered executive was seized of the matter and the diplomatic process is on to deal with the situation".

Appearing for the National Human Rights Commission, senior counsel Gopal Subramanium initially told the court that he was in agreement with what Mehta was saying and that the NHRC was only concerned with the Rohingyas present in India.

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Another counsel for the refugees, Ashwini Kumar, stated that the “Supreme Court has to intervene as the ultimate protector of life” after the bench questioned whether it could decide on matters related to refugees attempting to enter India as against those already in the country. “We cannot push them back to the jaws of death,” Kumar said. “You cannot deny a man his right to life,” he added.

Earlier in August 2017, Government of India stated that it was planning to deport all 40,000 Rohingya refugees living in the country.

On September 18, the Government through an affidavit told the Supreme Court that the continued illegal immigration of Rohingyas to India had “serious national security ramifications and threats”. It claimed that inputs from security agencies indicated that some of the refugees had links with terror groups in Pakistan.

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The Rohingya are often described as "the world's most persecuted minority". They are an ethnic group, a majority of whom are Muslims, who have lived for centuries in the majority Buddhist Myanmar. Currently, there are about 1.1 million Rohingya who live in the Southeast Asian country.

Following violence that broke out last year, more than 40,000 Rohingya fled to India from October 2016 to July 2017, according to the International Organization for Migration.