The Jammu Police detained nearly 170 Rohingya refugees on Saturday after they were found to be without valid documents, The Indian Express reported. The police exercise was carried out while collecting biometric details of the refugees from Myanmar.
Those detained have been lodged at the Hiranagar sub-jail under Section 3(2)e of the Foreigners Act, the Hindustan Times reported. “These immigrants were not holding valid travel documents required in terms of Section (3) of the Passports Act,” Inspector General of Police (Jammu) Mukesh Singh told Hindustan Times, adding that they now face deportation.
“After sending them to the holding centre, their nationality verification will be done as per the prescribed norms,” Singh told the Hindustan Times. “Following that, the process to deport these illegal immigrants will be initiated.” The Hiranagar jail has been converted into a holding centre.
“If the Indian government tells us to leave, we will return to our native land,” Abu Ahmed, a Rohingya, told The Indian Express. “But there should be no harassment there as we had fled Myanmar due to extreme persecution.”
Those who underwent the verification process, which began at MA Stadium in Jammu on Saturday, said the police collected personal information from them. “The officials sought details like my name, parentage, where I lived in Myanmar,” Sabina told the Hindustan Times.
Mohammad Haroon, another Rohingya refugee, told the newspaper that they were asked to reach MA Stadium with families. “They took our details from the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] cards and also conducted Covid tests,” Haroon said.
Media access has been denied in the stadium, according to the Hindustan Times.
The verification process has triggered protests and exodus fearing detention among the refugees who have been staying in camps in Jammu for years.
“We left the camps and started walking on the highway,” Abdul Rohim, who was staying in a camp since 2014, told ThePrint. “We don’t know where to. We have nowhere to go. We can’t go back to our country [Myanmar].”
On Sunday, a large number of Rohingyas marched from Narwal area towards Mecca Masjid in the Bhatindi area in Jammu, accusing the police of asking them to step out of their homes again for verification, The Indian Express reported.
On Sunday, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Jammu and Kashmir unit chief Ravinder Raina told The Indian Express that the police action was taken following a request from Myanmar’s External Affairs Ministry to deport the Rohingya back for resettlement. “Anyone who has to leave his native land will certainly be happy to return home,” Raina said.