Monday, 27 August 2012


The Rohingya are Muslim people who live in the Arakan region in western Myanmar (Burma). As of 2012, 800,000 Rohingya live in Myanmar. According to the Burmese government they are classified as 'stateless Bengali Muslims from Bangladesh' since 1982,  are not included in the Burmese Govt list of 130 ethnic races and have no claim to Myanmar citizenship. According to the UN, they are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. Waves of ethnic violence since 1991, some of it state-sponsoredhave pushed more than 250,000 Rohingyas into Bangladesh, where they live in squalid, makeshift camps with little or no access to healthcare or education.

The Rohingya have not fared much better on the Bangladesh side of the border. The government in Dhaka has refused to allow the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to register Rohingya arrivals since 1992. This means all but 30,000 of the Rohingyas are denied refugee status. The unregistered Rohingyas – more than 200,000 by some estimates – are officially considered illegal migrants and cannot get food rations provided by the World Food Programme. They are also denied access to basic healthcare and education provided by the UNHCR and its partner organisations. The Bangladesh government is determined to keep services to a bare minimum to avoid creating a "pull factor" – conditions that will attract more refugees

2012 is currently (June onwards) witnessing riots and conflict in the Rakhine State between Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine. The immediate cause of the riots is unclear, but has drawn widespread condemnation. This new round of sectarian violence has increased the numbers of refugees seeking sanctuary in Bangladesh. This has created a crisis in Bangaldesh which is reeling under pressure from its own population and resource scarcity. Thus in August 2012, the Bangladesh government decided to suspend operations of NGOs serving Rohingya refugees. This policy has met with much criticism from the international community. However the Bangladeshi government has refused to revoke the orders.

The persecution of ethnic minorities is holding back the transition of Burma to a democracy. Even Aung Saan Suu Kyi has yet to make a proper statement about the Rohingyas. The Rohingya problem is not an isolated case of ethnic persecution in Burma: clashes between in Kachin Independence Army and the militia broke out in June 2011, leading to a surge of Kachin refugees towards China. China refused entry and was accussed of pushing them back into the conflict zone.

The Rohingya and India

The Rohingya problem gained attention in India following the "protest-gone-violent" in Bombay in August 2012, to protest the Assam riots and persecution of Muslims in Burma (Rohingya). The trigger was apparently some morphed photographs purportedly showing violence against Muslims.There was anger at the media for what the protestors claimed was poor coverage- this led to attacks on the gathered press-persons too. Let us know about the present status of Rohingyas in India.

The Rohingya presence in India is not officially documented, as they have not officially registered with the government’s foreigner offices. Only 1,800 Rohingyas have registered with the United Nations, while several thousand are estimated to be living in India.  In May 2012 about 2,500 Rohingya, participated in the month-long protest in New Delhi (May 2012) demanding better access to refugee services in India.  The protest ended with the government agreeing to grant long-term visas to the Rohingya. The new visas will be valid until 2015. This will allow the Rohingya to stay  on in India and pursue asylum. It will give them access to education for their children in public schools. But the decision does not give the Rohingya what many of them sought - official refugee status. That would have allowed them access to a resettlement programme in a third country and financial assistance from UNHCR if they are unable to work. To apply for official refugee status, the Rohingyas would need to register with the foreign regional registration office of the Indian cities in which they are residing. The superintendent of police in respective cities serves as the foreign registration officer, will conduct a thorough verification based on the internal guidelines of the government of India. He/She will ascertain whether the refugee faces a genuine risk of persecution or if it is purely for economic reasons that they seek refugee status.


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