©Kazuo Koishi

Testimony from the Rohingya, a stateless refugee

Rohingya News from our project in Chittagogng Hills, Bangladesh.
On the occasion of the “Eid” Festival that celebrates the end of Ramadan, the refugees were free to leave the camp for the first time since their flight to Bangladesh. So they did go and venture outside for a while to come back later.
We all aid workers working in the camp are amazed by this enlightened the delicacy of the Bangladeshi government. People enjoyed the spending their time outside the camp for a while and now they returned to camp from unexpected holidays….

Why did so many people become refugees?

The number of Rohingya refugees who have massively fled to Bangladesh since August of last year has exceeded 70 million, and the total number of refugees in August 2017 was close to 90 million. This crisis was allegedly due to retaliation by Myanmar’s armed forces against the Rohingya armed forces attack. Entire Rohingya villages have been looted, women raped, people murdered. Faced with this genocide-like massacre, the Rohingya in danger have had to flee their land in the Rakhine state to seek refuge in neighboring Bangladesh.

How is life in the camp

Since the massive influx, nearly a year has passed. Although many support groups are on site, life in the camp is tough. Not everyone has access to sufficient food, many suffer from malnutrition. The hygiene situation is deplorable. Primary education is provided by some NGOs, but there is no secondary education. The monsoon caused landslides and floods, we have not yet reported on the state of health in relation to epidemics (cholera). In this oppressive chaos people are forced to wait without any deadline, they are forced to stay in the camp.

©Arnaud Finistre

How long have the Rohingyas been refugees?

The persecution of the Rohingya people does not date from last year, but has lasted for 40 years. In 1978, 20 million Rohingyas became refugees as a result of ethnic cleansing by the majority Burmese (non-Muslim). In 1982, 30 years after the independence of Burma, the law on nationality was promulgated, but the Rohingyas were not recognized as part of the Burmese federation. To date, the Myanmar government has failed to recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group, and their rights have been stalled by rendering them stateless. They testify, to not even have the freedom of education, access to medical care or not being able to move freely within the country.

People remaining in Myanmar

As there are no original demographics so the exact figures are unknown. Although the majority of Rohingya fled out to Bangladesh, there are still hundreds of thousands of them in Myanmar: those who were unable to reach Bangladesh due to aging or disability. On one side they suffer from the abysmal harshness of living in camps and on the other to be separated from their families and isolated in a “no-man’s land” from where they cannot even ask for help. Currently, humanitarian intervention from the international community such as the United Nations cannot be done, so medical care, education and even food cannot be offered to Rohingya who remain in Myanmar -Rakhine State. This situation is unbelievably a reality of contemporary Asia.
Rohingya people say. “We are grateful for the support from the international community, but what we really need is support for living as a citizen in Myanmar”

What are refugees?

At present, refugees in the world are estimated at 68,500,000 people 1 in 110 people around the world. MdM provides support to these populations in Syria, Yemen, Africa, all over Europe, and Bangladesh activity focused on medical care.
What is the definition of a refugee? In 1951, a treaty on the status of refugees says that “any person who is persecuted in its own country for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion and for certain social groups.” By this definition the Rohingyas are undeniably qualified as refugees.

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