Minor Rohingya asylum seekers arrested in West Bengal categorised 'child in need of care and protection'


State v X, Child Welfare Committee HRLN Kolkata filed a petition before the Child Welfare Committee for the release of X (belonging to the Rohingya community from Myanmar), who was a minor when he was arrested, but subsequently attained majority in custody. The Rohingya community, being a Muslim minority in Myanmar, has never been given formal statehood in Myanmar, and has been systematically and officially robbed of its basic civil, political, social, and cultural rights. There have been several reports by Amnesty International regarding the plight of the Rohingya, and the various forms of torture meted out to members of the community, including extortion and arbitrary taxation, land confiscation, forced eviction and house destruction, and financial restrictions on marriage. The Genocide Prevention Advisory Network, an international network of experts on the causes, consequences, and prevention, of genocide and other mass atrocities, has also issued an alert regarding the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. In view of the prevailing circumstances in Myanmar, the Petitioner, along with his cousin and aunt had to flee their country owing to a fear of persecution, and entered India through Bangladesh. Both the Petitioner and his cousin were arrested on November 19, 2014, and charged under Section 14 of the Foreigners Act. Meanwhile, the aunt of the Petitioner, Noor Begum, was subsequently granted refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, India (UNHCR) in August, 2015. The cousin of the petitioner, named Y, is a minor aged about 15 years, and was declared a ‘child in need of care and protection’ by the Child Welfare Committee, North 24 Parganas, West Bengal, as he was not an offender by choice, but a victim of circumstances. The Child Welfare Committee categorised him as a ‘child in need of care and protection’, given that Rohingyas have been forced to leave their native country on account of their ethnicity and religion. He was restored to his mother vide order dated 22 August 2016 by the CWC. Meanwhile, X attained majority, and the CWC had asked him to appear individually before the UNHCR for the grant of refugee status, and he subsequently made his application for the same. Thereafter, a letter was received from UNHCR stating that his application was under consideration, and he is a registered asylum seeker in India. Hence the petition for release was allowed by the CWC, and X was released vide order dated 25 January 2017.