The Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged the Indian government to “abide by its international legal obligations” and not forcibly deport Rohingya Muslim refugees to Myanmar, “where they face persecution”. The organisation said the community needed protection from “systematic abuse” by officials and state security forces in Myanmar.

“India has a long record of helping vulnerable populations fleeing from neighboring countries, including Sri Lankans, Afghans, and Tibetans,” said HRW South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly. “Indian authorities should abide by India’s international legal obligations and not forcibly return any Rohingya to Burma without first fairly evaluating their claims as refugees.”

HRW refuted Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju’s statement that New Delhi was not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, saying India was still “bound by customary international law” to not forcibly return refugees to a place where they face serious threats.

There is a large Rohingya population in Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan and Delhi. On Monday, Rijiju had said that all the estimated 40,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees in India are illegal immigrants and will be deported, including those registered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.