Police on Monday detained 12 Rohingya – eight women and four boys – who were believed to be victims of a human trafficking operation in Mizoram after they entered the country without valid travel documents, PTI reported. This comes days after a group of Rohingya women were arrested on the Assam-Mizoram border, Hindustan Times reported.

The woman who gave them shelter has been arrested and told police that her cousin who lives in Tahan, Myanmar, had asked her to provide shelter to the Rohingya refugees as a favour.

“From here, they would have been taken to Myanmar and then probably put on a boat to Malaysia or Taiwan to work as maids or labourers or maybe much worse,” an unidentified senior police officer told Reuters.

The Rohingya are being kept at shelter homes under the protection of the state’s social welfare department, Reuters quoted the official as saying. Meanwhile, police are further investigating their identities.

“We are in the process of notifying a detention centre,” said Balaji Srivastava, Director General of Police in Mizoram told Hindustan Times. The state does not have a detention centre for foreigners to be kept in before they are repatriated.

In late April, eight Rohingya women were arrested at the India-Myanmar border in Vairengte town for trying to enter Mizoram illegally.

The Rohingya crisis

More than seven lakh Rohingya Muslims fled to neighbouring Bangladesh after the Myanmar Army started a crackdown in Rakhine state in August 2017 in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, an insurgent group, on police posts and a military base. Most of them live in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar in the country’s southeast coast.

In February this year, Bangladesh had requested India to help with the early repatriation of the Rohingya to Rakhine province of Myanmar.

A number of the Rohingya sought refuge in India after the Army crackdown in Rakhine. However, since May 2018, at least 2,000 of them have reportedly left for Bangladesh. Rohingya refugees face open hostility in India, from both the society and the state. India followed through with its threat on October 4, deporting seven Rohingya refugees to Myanmar despite opposition from human rights organisations. Five more were deported on January 4. None of them were granted citizenship rights in Myanmar even though the Centre had assured the Supreme Court they would.