India Repatriates Rohingya While Bangladesh Moves Them to Isolated Island

On Monday, March 8, 2021, it was revealed by government officials that India has started the process of repatriating Rohingya refugees to Myanmar; upwards of 150 have been detained for their illegal residency in Jammu and Kashmir and are currently in the process of being deported back to their home country, despite the tremendous human rights concerns amidst the military coup and history of genocidal acts against the Rohingya community.

To account for such a concerning trend, the Indian government has repeatedly asserted that the country is neither signatory to or bounded by the obligations of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which includes the principle of non-refoulement.

***Non-refoulement is a fundamental principle of international law that forbids a country receiving asylum seekers from returning them to a country in which they would be in likely danger of persecution based on ‘race, religion, nationalist, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”***

Previously, last month in February, Indian coastguards rescued a group of 81 Rohingya Muslims – including 8 already deceased due to dehydration – who were stranded by boat in the Andaman Sea for upwards of 14 days after they had attempted to escape Bangladesh. This group of vulnerable Rohingya refugees are stuck in a tangled web; India refuses to allow the group resettlement and urges Bangladesh to accept them, Bangladesh explains that India must accept them on account that they are the country closest to Myanmar, and Myanmar- their origin country- is embroiled in a coup undertaken by the military which, four years ago, launched a genocide against the nation’s Rohingya themselves.

Now, amidst the crisis of the 81 Rohingya refugees still stranded at sea, and amidst the deportation of 150 Rohingya in India, the Indian foreign minister has arrived in Bangladesh ahead of a visit by Indian Prime Minister Modi for a meeting which would hopefully resolve the matter. However, even if Bangladeshi authorities allow the group to return, they will likely be forced onto the isolated island of Cox’s Bazar, where susceptibility to natural disasters, floods, and storms is high.

Regarding the situation, Bangladeshi government official Mohammad Shamsud Douza stated, “The process of relocating the Rohingya will continue … they are going there voluntarily for a better life. Our main priority is repatriating them to their homeland.” Bangladesh is also not signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Cover image by Prachatai on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)