20 June 2013
Rohingya refugees from Burma continue to pour into Hyderabad and no proper account of them seems to be maintained. Though a humanitarian issue, the security risk involved is ignored.
From 5,000 a few months ago, the number of refugees from the strife-torn Myanmar (Burma) has risen to some 12,000 now in the absence of any check on the inflow of Rohingya refugees from the Rakhine state of Burma. Myanmar’s 8,00,000 Rohingyas are stateless people today after the ethnic Buddhists drove them out. They are denied citizenship in Myanmar and are rejected by Bangladesh. The UN calls them, “one of the most persecuted people in the world.”
In the past one month alone, 35 families totalling 200 members reached the City. A revisit to the camp in Balapur, Shaheennagar and surrounding areas shows that the government of India and the State government appear unconcerned about them. Many of them have no refugee status and some claim to have cards from the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR). Local Muslim leaders are providing shelter and work for them. They are spread over Balapur, Hafizbabanagar, Shastripuram and Kishan Bagh.
Mustafa Faiz Ur Rahman, a Burmese refugee who has learnt Hindi, has emerged their leader. He mediates between the refugees and the local Muslim leaders who are giving support to the uprooted.
It is learnt that these refugees, desperate and helpless in an alien land, are being used by the local leaders. One thing that came out while visiting the camps was that they do menial jobs or construction works for far less than the market rates, which result in loss of jobs to the local people. The other is that the local leaders who provide them support probably see them as future investments.
Violence between Buddhists in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and the Rohingyas exploded in June 2012. At least 3,00,000 Rohingyas have taken refuge in squalid camps on Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh. But Bangladesh has prevented them from entering the country. And China does not allow them access even as refugees.
David L Phillips, director, programme on peace-building and rights, Columbia University Institute for the Study of Human Rights, says Bangladesh should be pressured to fulfil its obligations under international law and provide a safe haven to those fleeing violence. Despite its endemic poverty and sky-rocketing population, Bangladesh cannot be excused for barring Rohingyas. The fleeing Rohingyas are not entertained by either China or Bangladesh. They are all driven to India, where no convincing check is evident.