Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday said that the Rohingya Muslims living in India should not be called refugees, as they were illegal immigrants from Myanmar, ANI reported. Singh said some people have objected to the Centre’s decision to deport the Rohingyas citing human rights.

Singh was speaking at an event organised to observe the birth centenary of Laxman Madhav Rao Inamdar, one of the founding fathers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in Gujarat. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also present at the gathering.

“There is a procedure to attain the refugee status,” Singh said. “The principle of non-refoulement applies only to those who have taken asylum in India. No Rohingya has applied for asylum in India till date.”

The non-refoulement principle forbids a country from returning asylum seekers back to a country where they fear persecution based on race, religion or nationality.

The home minister reiterated that illegal immigration of Rohingyas could threaten the national security. He also asserted that New Delhi will not violate any international law if it were to deport the 40,000 Rohingyas from India, as it is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention.

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.

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. The UN has criticised the decision, which was made even as the Rohingya crisis worsened in Myanmar.

In its affidavit filed at the Supreme Court on September 18, the Centre said Rohingya Muslims in India had links with terror groups based in Pakistan. The government claimed that the continued illegal immigration of Rohingyas to India has “serious national security ramifications and threats”.

The Rohingya Muslim refugees live in India across Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan and Delhi.