The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner on Monday pulled up India for planning to deport Rohingya refugees when the community is facing violence in Myanmar. In a statement, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that he “deplored the current measures in India to deport Rohingyas at a time of such violence against them in their country”.

On September 5, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju said the government had set up a task force in various states to identify and deport Rohingya refugees in India. He maintained that the Rohingyas were illegal immigrants who needed to be deported “as per the law”. Around 40,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees live in India across Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan and Delhi.

Hussein also criticised Myanmar’s apparent “systematic attack” on the Rohingya minority, and said that an “ethnic cleansing” seemed to be under way. “Because Myanmar has refused access to human rights investigators, the current situation cannot yet be fully assessed, but the situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” Hussein told the UN Human Rights Council.

The Rohingya are reviled in Myanmar, where the community is accused of being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. According to the United Nations, 2,94,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed over to Bangladesh in the ongoing exodus that began after Rohingya militants allegedly attacked police posts in the restive Rakhine state on August 25.

“We have received multiple reports and satellite imagery of security forces and local militia burning Rohingya villages, and consistent accounts of extrajudicial killings, including shooting fleeing civilians,” Hussein said. He urged the Myanmar government to “stop pretending that the Rohingyas are setting fire to their own homes and laying waste to their own villages.”

The Rohingya crisis

The Rohingyas have been denied citizenship in Myanmar, and are classified as illegal immigrants, despite them claiming roots that go back centuries. The community has been subjected to violence by the Buddhist majority and the Army in Myanmar. The country’s de-facto leader and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised for failing to stand up for more than 1 million stateless Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine.