India hedges pledge to expel Rohingya Muslims amid outcry

Source: Associated Press

By ASHOK SHARMA

NEW DELHI (AP) — A day after the U.N. chief voiced concern about Indian plans to potentially deport tens of thousands of Muslim Rohingya refugees, an Indian government official said Wednesday that authorities are only working to identify those who fled persecution in neighboring Myanmar — not expel them.

An estimated 40,000 Rohingya Muslims have taken refuge in various parts of India, though fewer than 15,000 are registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Last week, India’s Home Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju told lawmakers that state authorities had been asked to identify and deport illegal immigrants, including but not only Rohingya. A ministry memo sent Aug. 8 to the states warns that immigrants are susceptible to recruitment by “terrorist” organizations and “not only infringe on the rights of Indian citizens but also pose grave security challenges.”

On Wednesday, a Home Ministry official said worries of Rohingya being shipped back to Myanmar were overblown, and that the government was only trying to count and identify how many refugees were in the country. Contrary to what was said in last week’s memo, the official said no decisions had been made about deporting any refugees. He refused to give his name as he was not authorized to speak with media.

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