UPDATE - India denies providing homes to Rohingya in New Delhi

UPDATE - India denies providing homes to Rohingya in New Delhi

Home Ministry contradicts Indian minister's earlier announcement that Rohingya will be given flats in national capital

CHANGES IN HEADLINE, LEDE; REVISES DECK; ADDS MORE INFO; EDITS THROUGHOUT

By Ahmad Adil

NEW DELHI (AA) – Indian Home Ministry on Wednesday denied Rohingya refugees in the national capital New Delhi would be provided flats, hours after a top Indian minister announced that Rohingya refugees would be provided shelter, amenities, and police protection.

The ministry, describing Rohingya as "illegal foreigners," said it has already taken up the matter of deportation to their concerned country.

India's Federal Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri announced on Twitter on Wednesday morning that all Rohingya refugees will be shifted to Economically Weaker Section (EWS) flats located in the Bakkarwala area of Delhi.

“India has always welcomed those who have sought refuge in the country," he said, calling the decision a “landmark” move.

In the afternoon, a statement issued by Indian Home Ministry, however, contradicted Puri's statement and said: "It is clarified that Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has not given any directions to provide EWS flats to Rohingya illegal migrants at Bakkarwala in New Delhi."

The ministry said the government in New Delhi (governed by Aam Aadmi Party) proposed to shift the Rohingya to a new location.

“MHA has directed the Government of Delhi to ensure that the Rohingya illegal foreigners will continue at the present location at Kanchan Kunj, Madanpur Khadar as MHA has already taken up the matter of deportation of illegal foreigners with the concerned country through the Ministry of External Affairs,” it said.

It also said that illegal foreigners will be kept in detention centers till their deportation.

“The government of Delhi has not declared the present location as a detention center. They have been directed to do the same immediately," the statement said.

After the Wednesday morning announcement, the government was criticized for announcing facilities for the Rohingya.

Right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad in a statement said it is "shocked" to see the statement of Federal Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri.

The Hindu organization urges the government to reconsider this issue and to make an arrangement to send them back instead of providing the Rohingya with housing.

Puri had said that the Rohingya will be provided basic amenities, UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) identity cards, and round-the-clock police protection.


- Confusing statements

Before the Home Ministry’s statement, Rohingya representatives in Delhi had called it a positive development and expressed some fears as well.

"Since it is the right of the Rohingya refugees to get access to education and free movement so that they earn for survival, we are hopeful that this move is being done on positive lines," said Ali Johar, a Rohingya representative and head of Education at Rohingya Human Rights Initiative.

"However," he told Anadolu Agency, "if there would be curbs on the movement of refugees in the area where they are being shifted, it would be a kind of detention, it would be the biggest nightmare."

He also said that there are approximately 1,100 Rohingya living in New Delhi and they are residing in camps, colonies, and even rental accommodation.

Sabber Kyaw Min, another Rohingya representative in New Delhi, told Anadolu Agency that they have not held any discussion with the government regarding the issue.

“We don't know much about the decision. We are praying it doesn't turn out to be a detention center," he said.

“Condition of Rohingya is extremely poor. They are living in miserable conditions. The government needs to work towards improving the lives of Rohingya," he said.

Reacting to the Home Ministry’s statement, Min said the statements by the government officials "are confusing."

Tens of thousands of Rohingya were killed and thousands of women and girls were raped when Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in Rakhine State in August 2017. More than 1.2 million Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, were forced to flee Myanmar.

There are about 40,000 Rohingya in India with 20,000 registered with the UN refugee agency. In the past, a number of Rohingya have been detained by the Indian authorities in several parts of the country.

Rohingya activists in India have been demanding New Delhi uphold commitments to human rights and democratic credentials.


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