A stateless people

January 20,2019

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A year-and-a-half after more than 750,000 Rohingya Muslims were forced out of Myanmar by its genocidal government and military, the community still lives in a state of limbo. Rohingya refugees are scattered throughout Asia, with most seeking safety in Bangladesh, but have had to face constant discrimination and threat of deportation. India has been the worst offender, wantonly disregarding international law on refugees to demonise the Rohingya as illegal aliens who pose a security threat. In the past three months, it has started expelling the Rohingya back to Myanmar where they will surely face a vengeful state. The Indian government has chosen to willingly endanger refugees to the extent that hundreds are now feeling to Bangladesh. Saudi Arabia has been an equally bad offender. Late last year, refugees in a detention centre went on a hunger strike to protest the miserable conditions in which they were essentially imprisoned. The hunger strike was ended after Saudi authorities promised them freedom only to then turn around and deport them to Bangladesh. Now, a second hunger strike has begun to try and stop these deportations.

Bangladesh is seen as the natural home of Rohingya refugees by these countries but this is based on the propaganda of the Myanmar state which considers the Rohingya illegal migrants from Bangladesh even though they have lived in Myanmar for generations. And the Bangladeshi government has been no better in its treatment of the refugees. It has refused to register most of the refugees and has detained them in concrete camps where the squalid conditions have led to the spread of communicable diseases like chickenpox. Even Bangladesh is trying to send as many refugees as it can back to Myanmar.

Right now, the Rohingya are essentially a stateless people who face violence and discrimination wherever they go. The international community seems more interested in using them as a bargaining chip in reaching an agreement with the Myanmar government rather than ensuring they are protected in their host countries. A summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations in Thailand this week too seems to have placed focus on repatriating the refugees before their safety can be guaranteed. It is the duty of every nation to respect the rights of the refugees it hosts but this a duty that has only been observed in the breach when it comes to the Rohingya.


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