The Financial Express

Why Rohingya repatriation pushed to backseat?    

| Updated: September 04, 2021 20:50:30

A Rohingya family wades through water crossing the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh. 	—UNHCR Photo A Rohingya family wades through water crossing the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh. —UNHCR Photo

Rohingya repatriation has been pushed to the backseat for a lack of interest of the international community in the humanitarian issue. The international community remained more interested about Afghanistan, now about to rise from the ruins of a miscalculated war.

By rotation the former Soviet Union and the United States (US) did everything to destroy Afghanistan, its society and education system. In Afghanistan teachers were the highest-paid group and girls and women used to wear skirts before the Soviet Union invaded it.

Because of the lack of interest on part of the international community, led by the US, the Rohingya crisis has deepened requiring Bangladesh to bear the burden of what is now world's largest refugee concentration.

Clearly, the repatriation of the displaced people to their homeland, Myanmar, looks uncertain, being put on the backburner.

 An international coalition, led by the US, has also been showing more attention in destroying the cradles of civilisation in Iraq and Syria rather than helping the Palestinians free their land from Israeli occupation.

The upshot is an increased and continuing burden on overpopulated Bangladesh requiring it to host the world's largest number of refugees, estimated at 1.1 million.

Bangladesh has extended temporary shelter to over 18,000 refugees on Bhasan Char, but that's no solution to the vexed problem. There is no pressure on Myanmar to take back its uprooted Rohingya population.

Decades of systematic persecution, discrimination, statelessness and targeted violence in Myanmar's Rakhine province had forced countless Rohingya women, girls, boys and men to flee to Bangladesh since 1978. They crossed the border into Bangladesh also in 1991-1992 and again in 2016.

The largest and fastest Rohingya refugee influx into Bangladesh occurred in August 2017, when an estimated 745,000 people-including more than 400,000 children--were driven out of their homeland, Myanmar, and crossed the border to take refuse in Bangladesh's frontier district Cox's Bazar.

In Myanmar, entire villages were burned to ashes, families separated and killed, and women and girls gang-raped in one of worst acts of ethnic cleansing.

Most of the people who escaped were severely traumatized after witnessing unspeakable atrocities. These people found temporary shelter in refugee camps in around Cox's Bazar, now seeing the world's largest number of refugees.

In March 2019, over 909,000 stateless Rohingya refugees lived in Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas. A vast majority of them have lived in 34 extremely congested camps, including at the Kutupalong-Balukhali Expansion Site, where approximately 626,500 refugees, the largest number, had gathered since.

Rohingyas are living in an extremely precarious situation as the root causes of their plight in Myanmar have not been addressed by the international community with their future getting uncertain.

They are vulnerable, living in highly challenging circumstances, exposed to the vagaries of monsoon and dependent on aid.

To address the ongoing needs, a new Joint Response Plan was launched in February 2019, with a request to provide $920.5 million to provide lifesaving assistance to 1.2 million people, including the refugees and the local host communities. Until April 17, only 17 per cent of the money sought had been funded, to meet the priority expenses for food, water, sanitation, shelter and medical care for the period January-December 2019.

In 2015, tens of thousands of Rohingyas were forcibly displaced from their villages and camps in the Rakhine province of Myanmar through systematic genocide. Many of them fled to Bangladesh and some others to Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand on risky boats via the waters of the Strait of Malacca, Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) an estimated 50,000 people had left by smugglers' boats from January to March in 2015. During the risky voyage, at least 100 Rohingyas died in Indonesia, 200 in Malaysia and 10 in Thailand, after the traffickers had abandoned them at sea.

In October 2015, researchers from the International State Crime at Queen Mary University, London, released a report drawing on leaked government documents that reveal an increasing 'ghettoisation, sporadic massacres, and restrictions on movement' of Rohingya people in Myanmar.

According to the researchers, the Myanmar government is at the final stages of an organised process of genocide against the Rohingyas. They appealed to the international community to redress the plight of the Rohingyas, who are Muslim and Hindu minorities residing in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine, earlier known as Arrakkan.

The religion of this ethnic group is a variation of the Sufism Islam and Hinduism.  They became 'stateless entities' as the Myanmar government does not recognise them as Myanmar's citizens. Lacking legal protection in Myanmar, they became one of the most persecuted peoples on earth.

 During the British colonisation of Myanmar, then Burma, between 1837 and 1937, migration of labourers from India and Bangladesh to Myanmar occurred. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), this sort of migration was considered internal movement because the British-administered Burma as a province of India.

After Burma became independent in 1948, the Rohingya population was denied citizenship. They were excluded from the Union Citizenship Act. In 1982, a new citizenship law was passed that also did not include the Rohingya in the list of country's 135 ethnic groups.

Before the law was passed, the Rohingya people had enjoyed the same opportunities as the other Burmese. After the law was passed, they were deprived of those opportunities.

In the 1970s, the Myanmar military began a campaign of brutal crackdown on Rohingya villages, forcing the Rohingya population to flee Myanmar. Many of them migrated illegally to predominantly Buddhist Bengali villages.

On May 1, 2015, at least 32 shallow graves were discovered on a remote mountain in Thailand, in a so-called 'waiting area' where illegal migrants were being held before being smuggled into Malaysia. A few Hindu migrants found alive in the grave were later treated at a local hospital, as reported by Thai news agencies. On 22 May 2015, however, the Myanmar navy rescued 208 migrants at sea. They confirmed that they had fled Myanmar. Following this incident, nationalist protests erupted in the capital, calling for the international community to stop blaming Myanmar for the Rohingya crisis.

On 24 May 2015, Malaysian police discovered 139 suspected graves in a series of abandoned camps used by human traffickers on the border with Thailand where Rohingya Hindus and Muslims fleeing Myanmar were believed to have been held.

The dominant ethnic group in the region of Rakhine rejects the label 'Rohingya'.  Specific laws pertaining to this population impose restrictions on 'marriage, family planning, employment, education, religious choice, and freedom of movement'. They face widespread poverty, with 78 per cent of the families living below the poverty line in Myanmar.  Many Rohingyas were placed in internment camps, and more than 120,000 remain housed there.

In 2015, 'more than 40 Rohingyas were massacred in the village of Du Chee Yar Tan by local men, the U.N. confirmed. Among the findings were 10 severed heads in a water tank, including those of children.

The number of Rohingya refugees in the US has increased significantly since 2014.

In January 2017, the Bangladesh government announced plans to temporarily relocate 32,000 registered Rohingya refugees to Bhashan Char, an offshore island 18 miles east of Hatiya Island


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