India’s top court on Thursday allowed the first deportations of Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar since the federal government ordered their identification last year.
The Supreme Court rejected a plea by defense attorney Prashant Bhushan to let seven Rohingya live in India as they feared reprisal in Myanmar. They were arrested in 2012 for entering India illegally and have been held in a prison.
The Indian government plans to hand over the seven to Myanmar border guards later Thursday. It says it has obtained travel permits for them from Myanmar. On Wednesday, they were taken in a bus from the prison to the border town of Moreh in Manipur state.
“Even the country of their origin has accepted them as its citizens,” Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S.K. Kaul and K.M. Joseph said, adding that they would not like to interfere with the government’s decision.
Government attorney Tushar Mehta told the judges that the government of Myanmar had given them certificates of identity and 1-month visas to facilitate their deportation.
Defense attorney Bhushan said the government should treat them as refugees and not as illegal migrants and send a representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to talk to them so that they were not deported under duress.
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 parts of India. Less than 15,000 are registered with the U.N. 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.