Persecuted Rohingyas have genuine claims to asylum

Kolkata, Oct 13
Securitisation of the Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar is "wrong" and "unfortunate", according to noted Bangladeshi political science and migration studies expert Tasneem Siddiqui, who says the international community should instead embrace them.

Siddiqui, the founding chair of the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), University of Dhaka, believes the Rohingyas have genuine claims to asylum.

"The Burmese (Myanmarese) state is pursuing a genocidal policy against the Rohingyas and as such Rohingyas have genuine claims to asylum. It's the responsibility of the international community to provide shelter to those fleeing persecution at home," Siddiqui told IANS in an email interview.

"In that context, I believe both Bangladesh and India, as civilised members of the world community, should embrace the Rohingyas and give them shelter," she observed.

"Pressure has to be exerted on Burma so that it ceases the genocidal activities and creates conditions at home for the Rohihingyas to return in dignity. Instead of seeing them from a humanitarian lens, securitising the refugees is wrong and unfortunate."

The Bangladesh government recently announced that it will identify Rohingya refugees as "forcefully displaced Myanmar citizens". The number of unregistered refugees who began coming into Bangladesh from Myanmar from August 25 has already exceeded 500,000. The governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar have announced establishment of a working group to discuss the repatriation of Rohingya refugees.

Meanwhile, India has described the Rohingyas as illegal immigrants and refuses to treat them as refugees. The government has said it intends to deport 40,000 Rohingyas who have been living in the country for the past few years after fleeing religious persecution in Myanmar.

Siddiqui said while the movement of Rohingyas to other countries has varying degrees of impact, they can be an asset for a country if their skills are harnessed properly through appropriate policies.

"Failure to address root causes of their displacement has resulted in Rohingyas fleeing their homes and securing shelter in other countries. Their movement to other countries has varying degrees of impact. If their skills are harnessed properly through appropriate policies then they can be an asset for a country," she opined.

If the refugees are not allowed to fend for themselves through income-generating activities or are not provided with basic necessities, then they are likely to have a disruptive impact on the host society, including the environment, the expert said.

"Hence, the onus lies on the host country to develop appropriate strategy for refugees," Siddiqui said.

The UN Security Council has widely condemned Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority, and also raised issues of terrorism and the attack on Hindus. Rights NGO Amnesty International has said the international community must help ensure that Rohingya refugees should not be forced back to Myanmar as long as they remain at risk of serious rights violations following an agreement between Dhaka and Nay Pyi Taw to form a working group to discuss the repatriation of the Rohingyas.

Siddiqui flagged concerns over stability of the South Asian region if the prolonged refugee crisis is not resolved quickly.

"This is going to adversely impact on the region. No group of people deserve to be banished from their homes on flimsy pretexts. Lack of basic rights, including that of liberty and livelihood, are preconditions for people to become vulnerable to exploitation and manipulation.

"If the crisis is not resolved quickly then a section of them may be radicalised and surely that will have major implications for the region," Siddiqui said, adding she believed India can play a major role in influencing Myanmar to make the atmosphere conducive for the dignified return of the refugees.

"The Rohingya's rightful claims to Burmese citizenship should be immediately restored. All discriminatory laws and orders should be rescinded. Through ensuring presence of international monitors, if not peace keepers, conditions should be created for their return to Burma with dignity. India can play a major role to influence Burma," she concluded.

(Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at sahana.g@ians.in)

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