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Global economic slowdown robbed Rohingyas of livelihood: Rights activists

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The lockdowns and economic slowdown in different countries have robbed Rohingyas of their livelihood opportunities and pushed them into an abyss of hunger and malnutrition, according to rights activists.

They came up with the opinion at a virtual symposium on Thursday, organised by Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) in collaboration of Free Rohingya Coalition.

The speakers, at an e-symposium titled ‘Hunger, Exploitation, Hate Crime and Xenophobia on Land and at Sea, also stated that lockdown has exposed them to exploitation, hate and xenophobia.

The participants, among other things, demanded that international community should ensure Myanmar pay appropriate reparations to the countries that are adversely affected by refugee flows.

They also insisted littoral states of Andaman Sea and South China Sea to immediately allow the drifting boats to dock on land.

They noted that there is an urgent need that states and donors to recognise the Rohingya community’s agency and create opportunities for self empowerment and entrepreneurship.

Sharifa Shaqira of Rohingya Women Development Network based in United States narrated the plights of Rohingyas drifting at sea.

She observed in Myanmar, Rohingyas have no future and lead a sub-human life. They are forced to take help of traffickers to escape the atrocious conditions at home.

Ali Johar, a cultural activist and youth leader in India, highlighted the need for access to education for the Rohingya community.

He said in the absence of education an entire generation of Rohingya will grow up illiterate becoming a burden on the host society.

Sujauddin Karimuddin, a Rohingya community leader in Australia said “being refugees is not our choice; circumstances compel us to move to other lands”.

He urged all countries of asylum to allow refugees to live in dignity until they return home.

Hafsar Tamisuddin, Rohingya gender activist based in New Zealand, bemoaned that the states and international actors thus far have mainly shied away from calling mass atrocity crime against the Rohingya as genocide and Rohingyas in other lands as refugees.

Reminding the audience Rohingyas once owned property and many are educated, she said “what we need is support, not charity.”

Nay San Lwin, coordinator of Free Rohingya Coalition based in Germany, regretted that the UN mandated agency UNHCR in most cases failed to provide adequate protection to refugees and ensure their rights as refugees.

They are merely providing services for survival of refugees, he observed.

Dr C R Abrar, executive director of RMMRU, moderated the symposium and said that there is little likelihood that UN Security Council will take action against the rogue Burmese state; therefore onus lies on powerful states to impose sanctions on Myanmar.

He also called for global civil society to stand in solidarity with Rohingyas to establish their rightful claims to Myanmar citizenship. 

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