Myanmar on Thursday refused to allow entry to a 14-year-old Rohingya girl who was taken to a border town for deportation by Indian authorities, citing inappropriate circumstances, the Hindustan Times reported.
Had the process been completed, the girl would have been the first Rohingya national to be deported after the Myanmar military staged a coup in the country.
The 14-year-old had been detained two years ago for illegally entering India after she fled a wave of violent persecution against the Rohingya population in their native Myanmar. She had been living on the premises of a non-governmental organisation in Silchar, Assam, according the Assam Tribune.
On Thursday, eight members of the Assam Police accompanied her to a border crossing, to send her back to coup-hit Myanmar.
But upon reaching there, Myanmar’s immigration department refused to open the gate of the international border. They said the current situation “was not appropriate for any deportation”, according to the Hindustan Times.
An unidentified immigration official from India told the newspaper that the girl had been sent back to the shelter home in Silchar for now. “We all know that the situation in Myanmar is not peaceful and it is not safe to send this minor girl now,” he added. “But there are some procedures in these cases, and we have to follow them. When Myanmar immigration officials refused to open the gate, we agreed.”
The official said it was likely authorities in Myanmar will “take some months to reopen the gate”.
Myanmar has been in the midst of political turmoil after the February 1 military coup and the brutal crackdown on protestors that followed. More than 1,000 people, including Myanmar police personnel and their families, have crossed into India since late February, fleeing bloodshed in their country.
The United Nations criticised New Delhi for deporting the 14-year-old girl amid the crisis, and urged authorities to halt the process. “The situation in Myanmar is not yet conducive for voluntary return in a safe, secure, and sustainable manner, and returning the child to Myanmar may place her at immediate risk of serious harm,” a United Nations Human Rights Commission spokesperson said on Thursday, according to the Reuters.
Teenager’s parents in Bangladesh
On March 31, the Assam Tribune had reported that the Indian government was going ahead with the repatriation of the 14-year-old Rohingya girl to Myanmar despite her request that she be sent to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, where her parents are reportedly living in a refugee camp.
“The girl is not willing to go to Myanmar as her parents are in Bangladesh at present,” an unidentified immigration official from India also told The Hindustan Times on Thursday.
Diba Roy, founder of non-profit Nivedita Nari Sangshta in Assam’s Silchar town that had cared for the girl, told Reuters that they had informed the local authorities that the girl did not have family in Myanmar.“But she was sent to Myanmar,” Roy said, adding that she had received instructions from authorities to hand over the girl to local police this week. “We have only obeyed the order.”
Thousands of Rohingya have lived in India for years but the government regards them as a security threat. In March, the police in Jammu and Kashmir had detained more than 150 Rohingya refugees and started a process to deport them back to Myanmar.