India calls Rohingya refugees “threat to national security“

Indian Muslims burn effigies of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest against the persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority in Kolkata, India, Monday, on September 11, 2017. (File photo by AP)
Updated 14 September 2017
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India calls Rohingya refugees “threat to national security“

NEW DELHI: The Indian government on Thursday told the Supreme Court that Rohingya refugees were “a threat to national security,” pushing back against condemnation of its plans to deport them.
India’s top court is hearing a challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government’s decision to deport Rohingya Muslims, filed by two Rohingyas living in Delhi who fled their village in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State about six years ago.
The decision to deport Rohingyas comes as Myanmar’s military crackdown in Rakhine has forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas to seek shelter in Bangladesh, in a process the UN has described as ethnic cleansing.
Myanmar says its forces are carrying out their legitimate duty to restore order after guerrilla attacks on Aug. 25 on security posts and an army camp in which about a dozen people were killed.
Close to 40,000 Rohingya Muslims live in India after fleeing Myanmar over the past decade. Nearly 15,000 have received refugee documentation, according to the United Nations, but India wants to deport them all.
Rohingyas are denied citizenship in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and regarded as illegal immigrants, despite claiming roots that date back centuries.
Some groups allied to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party have stepped up calls for Rohingyas to leave, and Modi said last week that India shared Myanmar’s concerns about “extremist violence” in Rakhine state.
On Thursday, a senior lawyer representing India’s government told the supreme court that “the state considers that Rohingyas are a threat to national security.”
Intelligence agencies suspect that Rohingya Muslim leaders in India are in touch with Pakistan-based militant groups, the lawyer said.
The lawyer declined to be named because an affidavit the home ministry is preparing to file with the court has not yet been finalized.
Bangladesh is also growing hostile to the Rohingya, more than 400,000 of whom live there after fleeing Myanmar since the early 1990s. From Bangladesh, some Rohingyas have crossed into India.
Aid groups and human rights activists have criticized the plans to expel Rohingyas, and some lawyers say deportation would violate India’s constitution.
India’s supreme court is expected to start hearing the case on Monday.
India this week sent 53 tons of relief materials to Bangladesh for Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar.


UN Security Council meets over Syria in remote Swedish farmhouse

Updated 15 min 33 sec ago
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UN Security Council meets over Syria in remote Swedish farmhouse

BACKARA- SWEDEN: The UN Security Council met in a secluded farmhouse on the southern tip of Sweden on Saturday in a bid to overcome deep divisions over how to end the war in Syria.
In a first for the Council, which normally holds its annual brainstorming session in upstate New York, the 15 ambassadors and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were this year invited to hold an informal meeting in Backakra by Sweden, a non-permanent member of the body.
The United Nations’ special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is expected on Sunday.
The farmhouse is the summer residence of Dag Hammarskjold, the United Nations’ second secretary-general who died in a plane crash in Africa in 1961.
Situated in the heart of a nature reserve, just a stone’s throw from the Baltic Sea, the farmhouse consists of four buildings around a courtyard and has been completely renovated in recent years.
The southern wing serves as the summer residence for the Swedish Academy which awards the Nobel Literature Prize.
With both New York and Damascus thousands of kilometers away, the Council is exploring “the means to strengthen and make more effective United Nations peacekeeping missions,” the Swedish government said.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom welcomed the decision to hold the meeting in Sweden, “where there is a long tradition of peaceful conflict prevention and resolution.”
But as she arrived in Backakra on Saturday morning she warned against being too hopeful the Syrian issue would be resolved over the weekend.
“Hopefully there will be some new ideas on the table and I think it’ll be on those tracks: the humanitarian situation, the chemical weapons,” she said.
But “not even the beautiful settings like these can solve all the problems,” the minister added.
The country’s deputy UN Ambassador Carl Skau said the idea was to foster dialogue and “relaunch momentum” with “humility and patience,” a week after the air strikes by France, Britain and the United States against the Syrian regime.
“It’s important for the council’s credibility,” Skau told reporters in New York.
While the war in Syria is not the only topic of the deliberations, it is high up on the agenda because it was an issue that divided council members deeply in recent months.
Skau said Backakra was a “fitting and inspiring venue” to reconnect with the power of diplomacy.
“It’s a place to roll up our sleeves, take off our jackets and ties and come up with some real and meaningful ways forward,” he said.