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A stateless people

There has been an alarming spread of human rights crises across the globe. But there are some persecuted populations that seem to be more on the receiving end than others. It has been increasingly clear that the Burmese Rohingya are one population that no one wants. Facing ethnic cleansing and lack of official recognition in their own country, they have been turned out from every other country they have tried to flee to. Bangladesh began to set up armed patrols to keep out Rohingya migrants fleeing from the Rakhine province. Now, India has announced that it will attempt to deport an estimated 40,000 Rohingya Muslims back to Myanmar. It is clear that this step would put in grave danger these refugees’ lives. The ongoing military operation in the Rakhine territory has increased the outward migration of Rohingya into other countries through dangerous routes. The Indian state’s argument is that, while 14,000 of the Rohingya are registered with the UNHCR, many more living in India are ‘illegal’ and unregistered. The decision by the Indian deputy interior minister to use the term ‘illegal immigrants’ instead of refugees for the Rohingyas is an unfortunate – and seemingly purposeful – glossing over of the fact that these people are running away from persecution in their own land and would rather live in their own country.

The Rohingya in Myanmar live in conditions that have been called 21st century concentration camps. The human rights abuses against them have been documented enough to be able to establish that there is a serious problem which needs international intervention. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have been forced to leave Myanmar – and the entire population could soon become state-less. The Indian decision to send them back to ‘their country’ is part of the international hypocrisy on the issue. The simple fact is that the country that they were born in does not accept them – and is, in fact, happy to use violence against them. India’s rejection of the refugee clauses of the UN can only be called a shameful precedent. While the National Human Rights Commission of India has issued a notice to the Indian central government over the plan to deport the refugees, it is unlikely that will have much of an effect. It is also quite possible the Muslim identity of the Rohingya has been the inspiration behind this step by the Indian government. That said, we must remember that Muslim-majority Bangladesh has not demonstrated itself to be much better regarding the Rohingya either. The UN general secretary has expressed his concern over the Indian plan – but the UN must do more than just express concerns. The Rohingya have faced the most terrible kind of world apathy. If that doesn’t change, they will be the victims of not just the Myanmar government but also of the entire international community.


(c) 2017 The International News

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