Centre Rejects Rohingya Right To Stay

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'Need To Prioritise Own Citizens': Centre Rejects Rohingya Right To Stay

The Centre told the court that no community can be granted refugee status outside legislative framework

New Delhi:

As a developing country that is also the world’s most populated, India needs to prioritise its own citizens, the Centre has told the Supreme Court, asserting that the illegal migration of and stay and Rohingya refugees have serious ramifications for national security.

The affidavit filed yesterday was in response to a petition seeking a direction to the Centre to release Rohingya refugees put in detention for alleged violation of the Foreigners Act.

The Rohingya refugees, most of them Muslims, have fled ethnic violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and entered India, Bangladesh and other countries illegally.

The Rohingya refugees are now at the centre of a fresh political row over the Centre’s implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to offer citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who fled religious persecution in these countries and entered India before 2015. Hitting back at the Opposition for raising the question of national security in connection with the implementation of CAA, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has questioned why Opposition leaders are not opposing Rohingya’s entry.

In its affidavit, the Centre has said India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and to the protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, 1967. Therefore, whether or not any class of persons are to be recognised as refugees is a “pure policy decision”, it has said.

“Effectively, the prayers therein are seeking to provide illegal Rohingya migrants with the right to reside within the territory of India, which is expressly against Article 19 (freedom of speech and expression). It is submitted that Article 19 is limited in its application only to citizens and cannot be extended to apply to foreigners,” it said.

The Centre has also said no community can be granted refugee status outside the legislative framework and such a declaration cannot be made by a judicial order.

“As a developing country with the largest population in the world and with limited resources, priority is required to be given to the country’s own citizens. Therefore, there cannot be any blanket acceptance of foreigners as refugees especially where the vast majority of such foreigners have entered the country illegally,” it said.

The Centre has cited a 2005 verdict of the Supreme Court to stress the dangers of unchecked immigration. “It is submitted that continuance of Rohingyas’ illegal migration into India and their continued stay in India, apart from being absolutely illegal, is found to be having serious national security ramifications and has serious security threats,” it said.

The Centre’s affidavit also pointed out that India has unfenced borders with Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar etc. and an easily navigable sea route with Pakistan as well as Sri Lanka, making it vulnerable to a continuous threat of an influx of illegal migration and resultant problems arising therefrom.

“The grant of any status qua immigration to persons or a class of persons coming from a particular country is not just a national issue but essentially an outcome of political decisions of the State in respect of maintaining its foreign relations with the State in question or with any other foreign nations. Such a decision is often a product of complex interplay of diverse factors such as social, economic, cultural and often extra-legal or extra judicial considerations. In light of the above, prayers in the nature of the present which seek to alter the existing regime are not maintainable,” it said.

“Once it is accepted that Rohingyas are illegal migrants, the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 would apply to them in full force,” it said, adding that the prayer in the petition would essentially amount to putting the Foreigners Act itself in abeyance.

“The prayer of the petitioner amounts to re-writing of the statute or directing the Parliament to frame a law in a particular manner which is wholly beyond the powers of judicial review. It is trite law that the courts cannot direct Parliament to make a law or to legislate in a particular way,” the affidavit said.

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