UNHCR deep concern at return of Myanmar nationals from India to Myanmar

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

A group of Rohingya families sit outside their makeshift homes on the outskirts of Jammu, India, May 2017. (© REUTERS/Mukesh Gupta)

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is greatly concerned for the safety and security of seven Myanmar nationals who were returned from India to Myanmar on Thursday.

UNHCR understands that prior to their return the group of seven were moved from Silchar central jail in Assam, where they had been in detention since 2012, to Manipur State bordering Myanmar. On learning of their detention and the planned return, and based on credible reports that the seven men are Rohingya, UNHCR requested the Indian authorities to grant access to this group to assess their need for international refugee protection. UNHCR regrets that the agency did not receive a response to this request and was unable to secure access for a lawyer from a state legal service.

UNHCR continues to seek clarification from the authorities on the circumstances under which these individuals were returned to Myanmar. The UN Refugee Agency is concerned that they did not have access to legal counsel, were not given the chance to access asylum processing and have their claims assessed in India.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people have fled from Myanmar over recent decades. In the latest refugee crisis, more than 720,000 Rohingya refugees found shelter in Bangladesh since 25 August 2017. Current conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State are not conducive for safe dignified and sustainable return of stateless Rohingya refugees.

There are some 18,000 Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in India, living across different locations. UNHCR issues ID cards to registered refugees and documents to asylum-seekers. This helps to prevent arbitrary arrests, detention and deportation. UNHCR works with the state legal services authorities and a network of partners to provide legal support to persons of concern in detention in India.