Myanmar has refused to accept a 14-year-old Rohingya girl deported by India, an Indian media report said, as the United Nations refugee agency and rights groups criticised New Delhi for the move.
The girl was taken to a border town in northeastern India’s Manipur state on Thursday for deportation, police officials said, but the authorities in coup-hit Myanmar refused to accept her.
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“The immigration department of the neighbouring country refused to open the gate of the international border saying that the situation is not appropriate for any deportation currently,” said a report in the Hindustan Times newspaper late on Thursday.
The report added that the girl will be sent back to the neighbouring state of Assam, where she had been sheltering for more than a year while her family lived as refugees in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya, forced to flee Myanmar following a military crackdown the UN said was carried out with “genocidal intent”, have lived in India and neighbouring Bangladesh for years.
But Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government regards them as a security threat and has started detaining them.
Police had taken the girl to a border crossing in Manipur to complete paperwork to send her back to Myanmar.
Assam police official BL Meena told Reuters news agency that the girl’s deportation was “previously scheduled”.
Diba Roy, founder of non-profit organisation Nivedita Nari Sangshta in Assam’s Silchar town, who had cared for the girl, said local authorities had been informed that she did not have family in Myanmar.
“But she was sent to Myanmar,” Roy said, adding that she had received instructions from federal authorities to hand over the girl to local police this week. “We have only obeyed the order.”
India’s foreign and home ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, had opposed the deportation.
“The situation in Myanmar is not yet conducive for voluntary return in a safe, secure and sustainable manner, and returning the child to Myanmar may place her at immediate risk of serious harm,” a UNHCR spokesperson said.
Police in India’s northern region of Jammu and Kashmir last month detained more than 160 Rohingya refugees and started a process to deport them back to Myanmar.
India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention and rejects a UN position that deporting the Rohingya violates the principle of refoulement – sending refugees back to a place where they face danger.