Thursday, February 5, 2009

India plans to deport Rohingya boat people

by Solomon
Wednesday, 04 February 2009 21:33

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Indian authorities are planning to deport boatpeople, who were rescued near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in December.

An official in the Andaman Island told Mizzima on Wednesday that about 450 boatpeople, whom the Indian Navy and coastguards had rescued in separate batches are in custody. The authorities will soon deport them to Bangladesh.

"They will be deported soon after the completion of affirmation [to Bangladesh]," said the official.

"They have been rescued from our Islands and placed in our custody so the administration will formally go ahead with deportation to Bangladesh," he added.

The official, who declined to reveal his identity as he is not authorized to speak to the press, said India has chosen to deport the boatpeople to Bangladesh, as they originally boarded the boat there.

"Actually they are from Bangladesh, there are only a few from Burma," the official said, adding, however, that all the boatpeople have revealed themselves to be Rohingya Muslims.

Since December last year, hundreds of Rohingya boatpeople have been rescued by Indian Navy from the Andaman Island while Indonesian Navy also rescued several of the boatpeople from Sabang Island in Ache province.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Indonesia said it has been trying to access the boatpeople since last month but are still waiting for permission from the government.

Anita Restu, spokesperson of UNHCR Indonesia said, "They [Rohingya] are under the care of the authorities in Aceh."

"We cannot get access them because we have not got permission from the government," she added.

She said, once permission is granted the UNHCR will assess the boatpeople's protection needs and register them if they request for asylum. It would provide international protection according to the mandate of the UNHCR.

On Tuesday, another batch of 198 boatpeople was rescued by Indonesian authorities and Restu said they all belong to Rohingya Muslim minority community from Burma.

Meanwhile, the official at the Andaman Island said, they have not received any request from the UNHCR for assessing the situation of the boatpeople.

"No one came here," the official said.

The official said, apparently a few agents collected money from the Rohingya boatpeople and promised to take them to Malaysia and offer them jobs.

But their dreams of entering Malaysia and finding jobs were dashed when their boats were intercepted by Thai coastguards and Navy, which then arrested them and put them adrift on sea on engineless boats.

"These poor people did not know about the plan of the touts. They just paid money and wanted to go to Malaysia. Finally, they found that they were cheated," the officer said.


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