By Syed Zafar Mehdi

After incarceration, Saudi deports ‘handcuffed’ Rohingya to Bangladesh

January 7, 2019

TEHRAN - Driven from their homeland in Rakhine state of Myanmar by the ultranationalist Buddhist monks actively backed by the country’s military forces, Rohingya Muslims have been rendered homeless.

While a vast majority of them have temporarily settled in makeshift refugee camps in Bangladesh, living under appalling conditions, many others have sought refuge in other countries.

But no country has really welcomed them with open arms. Worse, some countries like Saudi Arabia and India have started deporting them to Bangladesh or Myanmar.

According to reports, Saudi Arabia is continuing to deport homeless and stateless Rohingya to Bangladesh, where they will join legions of other refugees.

Middle East Eye (MEE), which has received videos as evidence, says Rohingya Muslims have spent years in Saudi prisons and are being prepared for deportation to Bangladesh, which is currently ‘home’ to more than a million Rohingya refugees.

The videos show Rohingya, having spent nearly five to six years in Saudi jails, being prepared for deportation at the Shumaisi detention centre in Jeddah.

One of the videos sent to MEE shows a Rohingya detainee sitting down, secretly filming the process, as dozens of Rohingya are queued for deportation in Shumaisi.

The report, citing voice notes received from anonymous sources, notes that some Rohingya were put in handcuffs after they attempted to resist their deportation to Bangladesh.

Nay San Lwin, an activist with Free Rohingya Coalition, condemned the ill-treatment meted out to Rohingya by Saudi authorities.  

“They are not criminals to be held in handcuffs, and I am very sad to see them being treated like criminals by the Saudi authorities,” he is quoted saying in the report.

Meanwhile, India also continues deporting homeless Rohingya refugees, despite global outcry.  

Last week, India deported a second group of persecuted Rohingya to their home country from Assam in northeastern India, raising concerns among human rights campaigners.

The five Rohingya, including two women, had been living in a foreigner detention camp in the state since 2014, after escaping persecution in their home country, according to reports.

Last October, India had deported seven Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar after Home Ministry asked state governments to identify and deport illegal immigrants.

India’s Supreme Court had allowed the deportation of Rohingya, saying they were found to be "illegal immigrants" and have been accepted by their country of origin as citizens.

Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government told the Supreme Court in 2017 that it considers the Rohingya “a security threat.”

According to media reports, about 20 Rohingya are still languishing in various jails in Assam, which borders Myanmar.

UN refugee agency has expressed regret over India’s decision to deport Rohingya to Myanmar, saying it has sought clarification from India on the circumstances under which the asylum seekers were sent back.

The misery of persecuted Rohingya Muslims continues – both in the refugee camps of Bangladesh and in their native Rakhine province of Myanmar.

Despite the repatriation deal between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh, homecoming did not happen as the conditions were not considered conducive for their voluntary repatriation.

As per conservative estimates, there are around 905,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar presently, although some human rights bodies have put the figure higher.

The exodus of persecuted Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine started in October 2016, following the crackdown by Burmese army. Almost 200,000 fled to neighboring Bangladesh. In August 2017, more than 720,000 of them escaped to Bangladesh following persecution, murder, arson and rape.

Myanmar and Bangladesh had signed a bilateral repatriation agreement last year, according to which the process of voluntary repatriation was to begin in 60 days. But the plan was shelved.

In June, Myanmar inked an agreement with UN to expedite the process of Rohingya repatriation, but the memorandum of understanding (MoU) was kept under wraps. Rohingya community leaders, after seeing the leaked MoU, rejected the agreement, saying it did not address their concerns.

International aid groups and bodies fighting for refugees have also opposed the idea of repatriating Rohingya refugees in current circumstances.

Bangladesh government on Sunday stressed the need for political will of Myanmar for expediting the process of repatriation of Rohingya people to Bangladesh.

Myanmar President Win Myint on Sunday expressed his intent to work with Sheikh Hasina, who was re-elected as Bangladesh Prime Minister last week, to address common challenges of the two countries.

However, the Rohingya crisis did not figure in the statement.