India to begin deportations of Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar

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India plans to send seven Rohingya Muslims back to Myanmar in the first deportation of members of the Myanmar minority group since the Home Ministry ordered state authorities last year to identify and deport them and other people in the country illegally.

Senior police officer Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta said Wednesday the seven people were arrested in 2012 for entering India illegally and have been held in an Assam state prison.

They are likely to be handed over to Myanmar border guards on Thursday, Mahanta said. India has obtained travel permits for them from Myanmar authorities.

The seven people were taken Wednesday in a bus from the prison to the border town of Moreh in Manipur state, Mahanta said.

About 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh to escape a brutal campaign of violence by Myanmar’s military.

An estimated 40,000 Rohingya have taken refuge in various parts of India. Less than 15,000 are registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Many have settled in areas with large Muslim populations, including the southern city of Hyderabad, the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi, and the Himalayan region of Jammu-Kashmir. Some have taken refuge in northeast India bordering Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The Indian government says it has evidence there are extremists who pose a threat to the country’s security among the Rohingya Muslims who have settled in many Indian cities. India is fighting insurgencies in northern Kashmir and in northeastern states.

India’s top court is hearing a petition filed on behalf of two Rohingya Muslims challenging a government decision to deport the ethnic group from India.

The Rohingya approached the Supreme Court after India’s junior home affairs minister, Kiren Rijiju, told Parliament last year that state governments had been asked to identify and deport people who entered the country illegally, including Rohingya.

Rijiju said India would deport all Rohingya refugees, including those who have been registered by the UN refugee agency.

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