Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Bangladesh keeps door firmly shut on Rohingya
Refugee rights activists say
is acting against international humanitarian law in turning back Rohingya
refugees from .
However, Myanmar Dhaka says it is doing nothing wrong
and must put its own people first.
Ignoring appeals from international community,
is sticking to its stand not to allow any Rohingya refugee inside its territory
as every week boatloads of Rohingyas are seeking to flee . Myanmar
The ethnic violence that broke out in Arakan state in
last month is continuing.
Earlier this month, US-based Human Rights Watch reported that Myanmar 's
security forces were indulging in mass arrest and the use of unlawful force
against the Rohingyas. Myanmar
In the past six weeks more than 1,300 Rohingya men, women and children sought to cross over to
Little more than a hundred of the Rohingyas managed to sneak into
in the first couple days after violence broke out in . But, despite their fervent
appeals seeking refuge in Myanmar ,
the remaining Rohingyas keep being turned back. Bangladesh
"Boatloads of Rohingyas from
are arriving every week. Through many points on our border they are attempting
to sneak in," Lt. Col. Zahid Hassan, a border guard commander in Cox's
Bazar said. "We are not allowing any of them to enter Myanmar ." Bangladesh
After a widespread ethnic conflict in
in 1978, thousands of Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh
from . Myanmar
Persecution by junta
Myanmar stripped the
Rohingyas of citizenship and identified them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, more Rohingyas began fleeing . Myanmar
In 1991, following alleged persecution by military junta in another wave tens of thousands of Rohingyas crossed over to
stopped granting Rohingyas refugee status in 1992. Bangladesh
But the trickle from across the border continued, resulting in the number of Rohingya refugees reaching 300,000 in
While 28,000 of them live in two UNHCR-sponsored camps, others live as illegal
refugees in numerous decrepit camps scattered across south eastern Bangladesh . Bangladesh
In the illegal Rohingya colonies where electricity and sanitation facilities are absent, the refugees live in extreme poverty. In over-populated and poverty-stricken
local people do not welcome the Rohingyas. Bangladesh
The refugees are draining the local resources and it is resulting in increased poverty among local people, many allege.
"The Rohingyas are ready to work at a very low wage. So the local people are angry as their jobs are being taken away by the refugees," said Jasimuddin, a police officer in Cox's Bazar district, where most Rohingya refugees live.
"It leads to conflicts between local people and the mostly illegal refugees. Many local people are dead against the arrival of new refugees."
began a crackdown on illegal Rohingyas living in the country. Many were
arrested and sent to jail on charges of illegal infiltration. Many illegal
Rohingyas have been forced to return to Bangladesh Myanmar
in a formal "push-back" process by . Bangladesh
In 2010 a UN Joint Initiative [UNJI] sought to launch a 33-million-US-dollar project to alleviate poverty in Cox's Bazar which could benefit the refugees as well as the local population, the initiative said.
blocked the UNJI project- which was to be funded mostly by the EU and ,
accusing the UN of "mala-fide intentions" and claiming that it was an
"underhand attempt" to rehabilitate the refugees in the country. Australia
Chris Lewa, the director of Rohingya advocacy group Arakan Project said that extreme miseries force the Rohingyas to flee Myanmar and that they should not be denied refuge by Bangladesh.
should not turn away people fleeing persecution: non-refoulement is a principle
of international customary law, whether a country has signed the refugee
convention or not," said Ms Lewa. Bangladesh
"The international community is pressuring us to accept the refugee as per the international customary law. It's unfair," said Foreign Minister Moni.
"Right from the time Rohingyas began taking refuge in
, we have been a
persistent objector to their entry here. When one country persistently objects
to such an issue, the international customary law cannot be applicable to
'Impossible situation, serious trouble'
Last week in an official statement Myanmar president Thein Sein said, it's "impossible" for Myanmar to accept the Rohingyas because they are illegal immigrants and do not belong to the ethnicity of Myanmar.
Bangladesh does not open its border, the poor
people will face very serious trouble," said Nurul Islam, a Rohingya
community leader in . Bangladesh
Some rights activists and Rohingya issue experts said that - although the primary responsibility to resolve the Rohingya issue lies with the
Myanmar government - by denying shelter to the
is acting against international humanitarian law. Bangladesh
Kelley Currie, a fellow with the Washington-based think tank Project 2049 Institute and a former Asia policy adviser in the US State Department said that
obliged to provide refuge to the Rohingyas. Bangladesh
The first issue is the basic international legal obligation not to return individuals who are fleeing persecution for ethnic, religious or political reasons, said Currie.
"In this case the Rohingyas clearly qualify as refugees if they are able to cross an international border."
Writer: Shaikh Azizur Rahman and edited by Richard Connor
First published in DeutscheWelles (DW) online