Wednesday, May 13, 2009

India deports some Rohingya boat-people to Bangladesh

by Solomon

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Authorities in India’s Andaman Island have begun deporting Rohingya boatpeople, stranded in the Island as of December 2008, to Bangladesh.

An immigration officer of Andaman Island said they have deported 49 Rohingya boat people to Bangladesh since February but said the rest of the 364 people remain.

In December 2008, Indian Navy, tipped-off by local fishermen, rescued more than 400 Rohingya boat-people drifting on wooden boats in the ocean near the Andaman and Nicobar Island.

“They are still here, but 49 people have been deported to Bangladesh. Still there are 364 left,” the official told Mizzima on Wednesday.

He said, the 49 boat-people were deported to Bangladesh on February 25 and they are still waiting for representatives of Bangladesh to accept the rest.

“Now we are waiting for representatives of Bangladesh Embassy to take back the remaining people but nobody has come for them,” the official added.

The official said they have confirmed that all the boatpeople, who claimed to be citizens of Burma, boarded boats in Bangladesh.

“They are in good health and the government continues to provide them facility and accommodation,” said the official. “All of them want to go back to Bangladesh,” he added.

The boat people claimed that they were Burmese citizens, who fled their country for Bangladesh. They sailed off with the hope of reaching Thailand or Malaysia in search of greener pastures.

Late last year and in early 2009, about a thousand Rohingya boat people, who were sailing in the Andaman Sea, were reportedly arrested by Thai authorities.

The boatpeople said, they were arrested and detained briefly by Thai authorities and were later set adrift in the sea on boats without engines and with little food and water.

While another group of about 400 Rohingya boatpeople were also rescued from the coast of Sabang in northern Aceh province of Indonesia in January while 78 others were arrested and detained by Thai authorities in Ranong town.

Kitty Mckinsey, spokesperson of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangkok, said they are still negotiating with Thailand regarding the 78 Rohingya.

“They are still in the Ranong detention centre, and nothing has been decided about their future yet,” said Mckinsey.

“Thailand has its own procedures for asylum seekers from Myanmar [Burma] and it’s not clear whether the Rohingya would be included under those procedures,” she said, adding that the UNHCR is continuing its efforts in negotiating with the Thai government.

The Rohingya people, who are Muslim minorities, mostly reside in northern Arakan state of Western Burma. Leaders of the Rohingya community said, they are not recognised as citizens, have no right to own property and marriage for them requires permission from the authorities.

Burma, in its state-run newspaper, had declared that Rohingya is not included among the over 130 national races that are recognised in Burma.

According to UNHCR in Bangladesh, there are over 20,000 recognised refugees living in two camps in Bangladesh. Meanwhile, nearly 200,000 others remain unrecognised and are living outside the camps.

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