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Protection of Rohingya Undocumented Refugees in Bangladesh Protection of Rohingya Undocumented Refugees in Bangladesh
by Rohingya Human Rights
2008-01-23 09:52:07
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The Rohingya refugee problem in Bangladesh is a decades-long pending issue. According to the official record, there are some 26,000 Rohingya refugees in two official camps in Cox's Bazar, a southern district of Bangladesh bordering Burma. The government of Bangladesh manages these camps with assistance from UN refugee agency, UNHCR. These refugees are the remainder of some 258,000 Rohingyas who left Burma to escape the genocidal operation led by the Burmese military rulers against the Rohingyas in 1991- 92.
 
On the other hand, some estimates suggest that there are over 400,000 Rohingyas who are living in Bangladesh as undocumented refugees and there are about 300,000 Rohingyas who are living in different countries of the world with Bangladesh passport. These refugees are among those who crossed to Bangladesh over the past to escape the systematic genocidal operations and gross human rights violations in their ancestral motherland Arakan which is now a state under the Union of Burma.
 
In fact, the Rohingya community of Arakan is one of the most unfortunate and down-trodden ethnic minority groups of the world. The Burmese government does not recognize them as its citizens branding them as Bangladeshis. They have been constantly subjected to gross human rights violation decades after decades by the Burmese military rulers who have turned the country into a secret state of terror since 1962.
 
The Rohingya community constitutes some 3.5 million people both at home and abroad and out of it, about 1..5 million have been uprooted from their motherland and those displaced Rohingyas have been leading a gypsy life in different countries of the world mostly in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Malaysia, Middle East countries etc.
 
In fact, the story of the large scale persecution of the Rohingyas begins with the beginning of the 20th century and during the Pogrom of 1942 which is notoriously known as "Biyallisher Kharakhari" over 2 hundred thousand Rohingya men, women and children have been massacred. During that Pogrom, the Rohingyas of 22 villages known as Baishfajja in Mrohaung Township which was the capital city of ancient Arakan Kingdom and also the Rohingyas of 14 villages known as Chaiddafajja of Kyawktaw Township, have been purely massacred without leaving a single Rohingya alive in those villages. During that time, tens of thousands of Rohingyas crossed to neighboring countries like Bangladesh. And particularly since Gen. Ne Win's seize of power in 1962, the exodus of Rohingyas from Arakan has turned out to be a regular phenomenon in order to escape the systematic genocidal, ethnic cleansing and drive out operations led against the Rohingyas by the Burmese military rulers.
 
And during the anti-Rohingya genocidal operation known as Dragon King Operation of 1978 over three hundred thousand Rohingyas took refuge in neighboring Bangladesh and later about 180,000 Rohingyas have returned to Arakan following the intervention of the international community to force the Burmese military rulers to take back its citizens. But due to the lack of an all-out guarantee of their security in Arakan, the rest portion of the refugees refused to return home and later, many of them got mixed with the local people of Bangladesh and started leading a gypsy life here and there as undocumented refugees and many of them crossed to different countries like India, Pakistan and different Middle East countries etc.
 
However, the Rohingya undocumented refugees now living in Bangladesh are a group of people who never exist officially. Being uprooted from their original hearths and homes in their ancestral land Arakan, most of them have been leading a miserable life without having any regular source of income to feed themselves. Most of them have been living years after years in some huts made of filthy plastic and bamboo cane, where parents and children live huddling together like packs of rats in a sewer. And due to the lack of any recognized status as refugees, there is no scope for them to receive any financial or food aid or medicine from any international agency. Resultantly, forest is the easiest source for their survival. They chop down the trees and sell them as log and firewood which is causing a serious problem for the environment of the country.
 
In fact, Bangladesh is a small country of only 147,570 square km with an overwhelming population of 134.6 million people out of which 70 million people live below the poverty level and out of them 45 million people live on below a dollar a day. Despite these so many limitations and limited resources, Bangladesh has given shelter to tens of thousands of Rohingya undocumented refugees over the past on the humanitarian ground. But it is quite impossible for the people of Bangladesh to shoulder the burden of so many refugees for an indefinite period.
 
In fact, the people of Bangladesh are very sympathetic to the never ending story of plight of Rohingyas and the sufferings of Rohingyas remind the people of Bangladesh of their own plight during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971 when millions of people of Bangladesh were compelled to take refuge in neighboring India to escape the genocide.
 
However, the Rohingya refugee issue is a case of serious concern for Bangladesh. In order to get rid of the Rohingya refugee problem, the government has already started to tighten its measures to stop the influx of the Rohingya refugees. And one of the major problems which the Rohingya undocumented refugees have been facing over the last one year is with passport. Since the Rohingyas are not recognized as citizens of Burma, so there is no way for them to get any passport of Burma.

Since the long past, the Rohingya undocumented refugees have been continuing to use Bangladesh passport to travel abroad for the interest of their easy survival as there was no problem for them to get a passport through many flexible ways. But since the last one year, there is no scope for Rohingyas to get any passport due to strict process of scrutiny or verification as to whether an applicant is in fact a bona fide citizen of Bangladesh. Now no passport is issued until the passport office gets a concrete verification report of the police to the fact that an applicant is in fact a citizen of the country. And also the police department is maintaining so strict procedure to verify an applicant that now they never submit any report to the passport office without going directly to the spot of the address as mentioned in the application form and then verify it minutely.
 
Besides, the ongoing process of exclusion of Rohingyas from the voter enlistment programme of the Election Commission, has caused a question of life and death for tens of thousands of Rohingya undocumented refugees. After the finalization of the ongoing process of voter enlistment within the Year 2008, the government will provide ID Card to all its citizens. And the use of this ID Card will be mandatory for access to services and facilities in almost all walks of life like getting a new passport or driving license or their renewal, taxpayer identification number (TIN), business identification number, applying for jobs, opening bank account, getting bank loan, drawing government allowances, for trade license, marriage registration, sale and purchase of land and properties, purchase of vehicles, gas, electricity, water and telephone connection and government facilities like subsidy and assistance. In such a situation, the survival of these Rohingyas without any recognized status will be quite impossible and it will cause a big human tragedy if no specific step is taken in advance to address their problem.
 
In fact, such a situation has caused a serious problem for the survival of the Rohingya undocumented refugees. And more importantly, if the government refuses through whatever means to renew the passports of the Rohingyas who are living in different countries of the world with Bangladesh passport or to reissue their passports if it is lost, then it will cause a big Human Tragedy as thousands of Rohingya immigrants who have been living in different countries of the world, will become illegal immigrants abroad facing the risk of loss of jobs, jail or deportation and many of them will become stranded there and they will not be able to reunite with their families - wife, children, fathers, mothers ,brothers, sisters and other near and dear ones, and many of them will not even be able to see for the last time their dying mothers or any other near and dear ones at their death bed. And more importantly, in that condition of becoming an illegal immigrant for example in the Middle East with the loss of passport, if any Rohingya dies whose family is in Bangladesh, the family of the deceased Rohingya will not be able to get back even his dead body and see him for the last time.
 
It may be mentioned here that giving citizenship to Rohingyas in Bangladesh or making any other arrangement for their permanent resettlement in Bangladesh is not a solution to their problem.. Any such move will rather aggravate their problem further. Such move will encourage the Burmese military rulers to launch more exterminatory operations against the Rohingyas in order to push the rest of Rohingyas from Arakan to Bangladesh and turn Arakan into a purely "Rohingyaless" land, because the Burmese military rulers have snatched away the citizenship right of Rohingyas on a false allegation that the Rohingyas are the British Era immigrants of the then East Bengal (now Bangladesh) and as such, this type of move will indirectly justify the allegation of the Burmese rulers. On the other hand, the burden of so many refugees will cause a tremendous problem to the poverty stricken people of Bangladesh.
 
So, the best option towards the solution to their problem is to let them live in Bangladesh until a democratic government comes to power in Burma and to recognize them as refugees for their easy survival and to provide them with Travel Document to facilitate them to travel abroad for their livelihood.
 
It may be mentioned here that at present there is no effective tool in Bangladesh for the protection of refugees and identification of illegal immigrants and there is no institutional mechanism for refugee status determination (RSD) by the government. Bangladesh is not a party to the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, 1951, and it's Protocol of 1967. It also does not have any national legislation to deal with asylum or refugee issues. Though Article 31 of the Constitution of Bangladesh guarantees equal protection of law for "every other person" staying in the country for the time being, however, there is a lack of judicial interpretation and common understanding of the clause.
 
But Bangladesh has been a party to major international human rights instruments. It has also been a member of the UNHCR's Executive Committee since 1995. So, the state is already under obligation to extend protection to asylum seekers and refugees in the country. So, as a part of their protection, the government should take steps to recognize them as refugees and to raise the issue in the international forum with a view to find out a durable solution to their problem.

    
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A. Rahman Farooq2008-02-27 17:45:30
Ref: RHRC/B10/2008
Dated: Feb 10.2008

Change of Name:
CRDB into RHRC

With a view to further specify our political activities with our ethnic identity "Rohingya", the name of our existing organization,"The Council for Restoration of Democracy in Burma(CRDB)" has been changed into "Rohingya Human Rights Council(RHRC)" with unanimous decision. But our organizational structures as well as our objectives for the restoration of democracy in Burma, restoration of human rights of Rohingyas and restoration of Communal Harmony among all communities of Arakan particularly the Rohingyas and Rakhines, will remain unchanged. An online journal by name of "Rohingya Human Rights Review" will serve as the mouthpiece of our organization.

With thanks and best regards.

A. Rahman Farooq
Chairman
Rohingya Human Rights Council (RHRC)
Address: 2975 Vang i Valdres, Norway
Contact: +4797413036
Email: rohingyas.rhrc@yahoo.com, rohingyas.rhrc@gmail.com


Noor Hakim2008-08-23 07:32:10
Think everybody,How we can solve our Rohingyas problem
It will be useless to express our difficulties.There is no one who will pity on us.


arakankaman2009-02-10 10:00:51
Hi Rohingya is Rohingya ( Refugee is REfugee) Meaning of Rohingya is Refugee.


Dr. Hamid2010-07-08 16:10:07
If you're the one who Rohingya from Arakan State of Myanmar, but you're a Refugee. Let see who is refugee article of Geneva Convention ?


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