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Why arrest Rohingiyas with UNHCR card in West Bengal? Asks complaint to NHRC

By Our Representative 

In an unusual incident, three Rohingyas, including a child, have been arrested by cops as if they were criminals and sent to judicial custody after being produced before the court, despite the fact that they possess United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) card.
Bringing this to light, a senior West Bengal-based activist said that the three entered India “without any valid documents to save their lives from persecution by the Myanmar government”.
Making a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission chairman, Kirity Roy, who is national convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture and Impunity ((PACTI), and secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), said, the three were arrested on May 28, 2022 at around 8.25 pm by cops belonging to the Mekhliganj Police Station, Cooch Behar district.
Roy said, police personnel interrogated them and came to the fact that they are Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and entered India without valid documents through the India- Bangladesh border.
They were arrested under section 14A of the Foreigners Act and produced before the Mekhliganj Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court and were sent to police remand for two days, he saaid, adding, on May 31, 2022 they were produced before the Mekhliganj Chief Judicial Magistrate court and upon magistrate’s order they were sent to the judicial custody at Jalpaigudi Central Correctional Home.
As for child, Saydul Amin, aged 11, said Roy, he was detained in the police lock up and later sent to the Jalpaiguri Central Correctional Home, noting, “Section 10 and 11 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act depicts that a child can never be kept in a police lock up or regular jail.”
Giving details of the accused, Roy said, Mohammad Sadiq, 26, belongs to village Fakira Bazar; Police Station Balibazar, District Atkub, Mayanmar, and is possession of UNHCR card No 305-14C00288, and the other person, Shamsul Alam, 61, also belonging to the same village, has the UNHCR card No 305-17C02182. The child, also from the same village, does not have a UNHCR card.
According to Roy, “The prosecution was registered against them merely on the allegation that they entered into India without any valid document, but the law enforcement agency bound by the law did not consider that the fact that those persons belong to Rohingya Muslim community, which is an oppressed ethnic minority community in Myanmar.”
Pointing out that the UNHCR India office is situated in New Delhi, and its work is known to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, Roy said, “UNHCR issued cards to these Rohingya people along with other refugees. The UNHCR card confirms a person’s need for international protection.”
What is ironical, said Roy, is that police in its complaint has “mentioned that they seized two UNHCR cards from the arrested persons”, wondering whether, during the time of their arrest, the concerned police officials contact the UNHCR office in India or the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Government of India has given asylum to 62,000 Sri Lankan refugees and about 100,000 Tibetans
“If the police arrest the UNHCR card holders who are not harmful to the country and the prosecution takes them as offenders, and the judiciary sends them to the Correctional Homes, then it is the direct attack to the Criminal Justice Administration”, alleged Roy.
In fact, said Roy, “They have the right to seek and enjoy asylum in other countries and live a life free from persecution and such right flows from Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Denying them of such right is violation of the principles enshrined under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.”
He added, “As per Article 3 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1984 to which India is a signatory, the law enforcing agency is obligated not to forcibly repatriate them to Myanmar.”
India has signed the UN resolution, though not ratified it yet.
Noted Roy, “We must remember that the Government of India has allowed 62,000 Sri Lankan refugees and about 100,000 Tibetans to get asylum in this country. Some bloggers from Bangladesh, some stateless people also live here peacefully who came from Myanmar, Afghanistan, even from Africa.”
Asking the NHRC to ensure that the authorities must “make a through enquiry on the situation of the victims” and “prosecution registered against the victims should be withdrawn immediately”, Roy said, “UNHCR office in India must intervene in connection with this case and take proper action in this regard.”
At the same time, Roy said, UNHCR office in Delhi should provide Saydul Amin a UNHCR card, insisting, “The child victim should be kept in a shelter home instead of the correctional home.”

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