India’s permanent representative to the United Nations on Tuesday defended New Delhi’s stance on the matter of deporting Rohingya Muslim refugees to violence-hit Myanmar. “Enforcing laws should not be mistaken for lack of compassion,” said Syed Akbaruddin.

He added that New Delhi was concerned about the matter concerning illegal migrants, who could be a challenge to its security, ANI reported. “Assessment of human rights should not be matter of political convenience,” said the Indian official.

India’s statements come a day after United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein criticised India’s plans to deport Rohingyas. Hussein had said that he “deplored the current measures in India to deport Rohingyas at a time of such violence against them in their country [Myanmar]”.

On Monday, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju downplayed India’s plans to deport the Rohingya refugees and had told The Hindu that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre does not have a concrete plan yet. The Union minister said state governments had been asked to take action against the refugees as per the law. “The United Nations and other international organisations do not understand the internal security or national security problems of India,” said Rijiju. “India has been the most humane nation...They [the Rohingyas] are still here.”

On September 5, Rijiju had said the government had set up a task force in various states to identify and deport Rohingya refugees in India. Around 40,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees live in India across Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan and Delhi.

China is also among the countries supporting Myanmar’s efforts to “safeguard stability” amid the violence in Rakhine state. “We support Myanmar’s efforts in upholding peace and stability in the Rakhine state,” said China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang, on Tuesday. “We hope order and the normal life there will be recovered as soon as possible.”

The Rohingya crisis

Rohingyas have been denied citizenship in Myanmar, and are classified as illegal immigrants, despite them claiming roots going back centuries in the country. 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 10 lakh stateless Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine.