- Vikram Jayakumar
May Proceedings in Rohingya Refugee Settlements
The Month of May has seen an unfortunate turn of events for the Rohingya people in Refugee Camps in Myanmar. The government of Myanmar has recently engaged in efforts to restrict the efforts of some 80 NGOs in the Rakhine state. While these NGOs can complete current ongoing projects, it appears that they would face many obstacles, posed by the Burmese government, in initiating new ones. As things stand, the government has already denied access to reporters and journalists to the site of refugee camps in Myanmar, even detaining a few.
Another topic of growing concern is Bangladesh's role in the Rohingya Refugee Crisis. One cannot deny the humanitarian aid and goodwill that the Bangladesh government has demonstrated in establishing refugee camps for the Rohingya in Bangladeshi soil. However, there have been discussions on whether the Bangladeshi government is economically capable of continuous support for these refugees. Moreover, with scores of Rohingya children being pulled out of local Bangladeshi schools and sent back to refugee settlements by authorities, the future sustainability of aid provided by Bangladesh is uncertain. This is especially more so with serious doubts being raised with regards to the Rohingya staying in Bangladesh forever.
In addition, current measures to support the Rohingya by the Bangladeshi government are largely ineffective. In Cox’s Bazar, the biggest Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, there are over 700,000 Rohingya refugees, many of whom are housed in makeshift homes that were hastily constructed on slopes in 2017 – after a mass ethnic cleansing that compelled the Rohingya to flee in droves. These houses are highly susceptible to landslides in heavy rains. With the monsoon season approaching soon, these houses are even more vulnerable. In anticipation of the heavy rains, the Rohingya people are being relocated to safer areas outside the camps. Other measures such as the planting of vegetation on these slopes, so that the roots of plants can hold the soil together, are being taken as well. While relocation may be draining and depressing affair, there is a silver lining. The relocation and earth-moving works provide substantial employment opportunities to the Rohingya who otherwise not permitted to work.
While recent news on the issue has undoubtedly been bleak, Save the Children, has recently been in the news for its continuous commitment in ensuring that the 690 Rohingya children it cares for receive education. These children are located in settlement homes designated for Rohingya Refugees in Hyderabad, India. 450 out of the 690 children are currently enrolled in government schools but all are receiving a formal education. These children undergo a one-year transitional period and attend what is called a bridge school, to learn the concepts and languages required for formal education in Hyderabad. However, one issue that many children face is the lack of verifiable and legitimate forms of identification. Even their UNCHR cards are rejected by government schools in Hyderabad. The Indian government has recently taken a firm stance against the admittance of Rohingya refugees and has in fact deported a few of them back to Myanmar.
Returning to Myanmar is simply no option for the hundreds and thousands of Rohingya refugees. There are still approximately 600,000 Rohingyas in Myanmar living today but they lead a life rife with discrimination and human rights abuses. The current conditions make it unsafe for the return of any Rohingya refugee. What makes the matter worse is that there has been no investigation whatsoever on the alleged human rights violations that the Burmese government is responsible for. Perpetrators still roam free. Furthermore, without any citizenship rights and the freedom of movement, the Rohingya not only do not benefit from the development projects in the Rakhine state but are stuck in a predicament they have absolutely no power over.
In conclusion, the Rohingya Crisis is evidently an increasingly more complicated one than it already is. The limitations placed on NGOs by the government of Myanmar is a huge stumbling block in aiding the Rohingya. If anything, the Rohingya people need all the help they can get now as they face increasing human right violations and discrimination. However, while reports suggest otherwise, the future of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and in Hyderabad is not bleak. There is substantial work being done by NGOs in refugee settlements in these neighboring areas. Hopefully, the UNCHR can come through and assist in extending the period of stay for Rohingya refugees in these areas for any return to Myanmar is off the cards.