India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Wednesday denied having issued directions to provide housing for Rohingya refugees hours after the Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri, announced that the government would house them.
In a press release, the MHA said that the ministry had not passed any order to provide flats meant for economically weaker sections (EWS) to Rohingya “illegal migrants” at Bakkarwala in New Delhi. The press release stated that the Delhi government had proposed to shift the Rohingyas to a new location. However, the ministry had directed the Delhi government to ensure they continue to remain at their present location at Kanchan Kunj in Delhi.
The MHA said that it had already taken up the matter of deportation of Rohingyas to Myanmar through the external affairs ministry. Describing Rohingya refugees as “illegal foreigners,” the press release further stated:
Illegal foreigners are to be kept in the Detention Centre till their deportation as per law. The Government of Delhi has not declared the present location as a Detention Centre. They have been directed to do the same immediately.
The policy u-turn began with a series of tweets earlier in the day wherein the housing minister announced the government’s decision to shift the Rohingya refugees to EWS flats. Puri had said that the Rohingyas would be provided with basic amenities, along with IDs issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and round-the-clock police protection in what he called a “landmark decision.” Puri had also rebuked those who had criticized the government’s refugee policy. He tweeted that:
However, Puri later reshared the MHA’s clarification stating that the “press release with respect to the issue of Rohingya illegal foreigners gives out the correct position.” Here, Puri also referred to Rohingyas as “illegal foreigners” as opposed to “refugees,” as he had in his earlier tweets: