Geneva: As central government plans to deport Rohingya refugees, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHRC) on Monday said the principle of non-refoulement - or not sending back refugees to a place where they face danger - is binding on all states.
Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju had recently said the Rohingyas, whether they are registered under the UNHCR or not, are "illegal immigrants in India and hence they stand to be deported".
Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, United Nations high commissioner for human rights, on Monday expressed strong protest against the Modi government's move to deport the refugees.
"I deplore current measures in India to deport Rohingyas at a time of such violence against them in their country," Zeid said, noting that some 40,000 Rohingyas had settled in India, including 16,000 who have received refugee documentation.
Noting India's obligations under international law, he said: "India cannot carry out collective expulsions, or return people to a place where they risk torture or other serious violations."
In an e-mail response to news agency PTI's questions on the Rohingyas in India, the UN body said the principle is considered a part of customary international law and therefore is binding on all states, whether they have signed the Refugee Convention or not.
"In addition, India is party to major international human rights instruments, such as International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention on the Rights of the Child," it said.
The Rohingyas Muslim minority in the Rakhine state of Myanmar have been fleeing to Bangladesh and India amid reports of alleged ethnic purging and persecution.
According to official records, Hyderabad is home to about 3,600 Rohingyas, taking shelter under a UNHCR program.
"They are not willing to go back to Myanmar," a volunteer with an NGO working for them said requesting anonymity.
Sources in the Rohingya camp here say they are apprehensive about their future if they are deported and fear that they would be killed or subjected to torture back home.
"There are about 3,600 Rohingyas, who are UNHCR card holders. Most of them are illiterate. We have not seen any fresh arrivals after the recent incidents in Maynmar. Whoever lives in the camp (in old city area) is not willing to go back as they fear for their lives," one of them said.