Since last month, India has been providing food, medical and technical aid to Rohingya crammed on a fishing boat that was found drifting in international waters.Human Rights Watch and Rohingya Muslim refugees in India urged the government on Monday to provide refuge to 81 Rohingya people whose boat has been drifting in the Andaman Sea for over two weeks.
Since last month, India has been providing food, medical and technical aid to Rohingya crammed on a fishing boat that was found drifting in international waters after it left southern Bangladesh. The Rohingya had hoped to reach Malaysia but the boat’s engine developed technical snags.
Eight people on board the boat have died and many of the 81 survivors are sick and suffering from extreme dehydration, having run out of food and water four days into their journey.
India’s coast guard has repaired the vessel but was not permitting it to enter Indian waters, and instead wanted it to return to Bangladesh.
“We are begging Indian authorities to bring our people to land, how can all countries refuse to accept 81 lives stranded in international waters?” said Sabber Kyaw Min, director of Rohingya Human Rights Initiative (RHRI) in India.
“Eight are already dead, we have a right to receive their bodies,” Min said adding he and about 16,000 Rohingya refugees living in India were urging the government to accept the distressed refugees.
Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said India should uphold its obligations under international law and protect the refugees.
“The Rohingya have been so persecuted, and for so long, they are desperate to find a place where they can be safe and made to feel welcome. And yet, no country in the world, even those that sympathize with them, are willing,” Ganguly said.
India’s foreign ministry did not respond to questions on whether the 81 Rohingya will be allowed to enter India, and neither did it provide an update on talks with Bangladesh on the issue.
The Indian government was in discussions with Bangladesh to facilitate the safe return of the vessel, which was found drifting in international waters having left southern Bangladesh about two weeks ago with hopes of reaching Malaysia.
The boat had sailed on Feb. 11 from Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh carrying 56 women and eight girls as well as 21 men and five boys, officials said.
Many of the survivors, according to Indian officials, were sick and suffering from extreme dehydration, having run out of food and water after the boat’s engine failed four days after leaving Cox’s Bazar, where refugee camps house hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who have fled neighbouring Myanmar.
“The engine of the boat broke down earlier this week and we received an SOS from some Rohingyas, ” said an Indian coast guard official overseeing the search and rescue effort from New Delhi.
“It’s a humanitarian crisis and we are doing the best we can to save their lives,” he said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
“The foreign ministry is working towards sending them back to Bangladesh and India will repair or replace the boat’s engine to ensure they can travel back safely.”
The survivors were being provided with food supplies and medicine, and women and children have been given fresh clothes. It was unclear what arrangements were being made for the funeral rites of the people who died, the coast guard official added.
Announcing that the boat had been found, India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said on Thursday two Indian coast guard ships were dispatched to search for the vessel following urgent calls for help.
The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, had raised the alarm earlier this week over the missing boat.
“We understand that around 47 of the occupants of the boat are in possession of ID cards issued to them by UNHCR office in Bangladesh stating that they are displaced Myanmar nationals,” Srivastava said.
Of the 90 people that had set out on the voyage, eight were found dead, and one was missing, he added.
Human rights groups say more than 90 Muslim-minority Rohingya who fled Myanmar are now adrift in the Indian Ocean. The boat trafficking them has broken down. They’ve got little food or water on board, and it seems like there’s little interest in saving them. Michael Sullivan reports from neighboring Thailand.
MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Human rights groups say the Rohingya embarked on their journey from refugee camps in southern Bangladesh two weeks ago.
CATHERINE STUBBERFIELD: There are a number of refugees reportedly ill. We’re aware that eight have passed away already on the journey. And as of today, they still have no safe harbor in which to disembark.
Catherine Stubberfield is the spokesperson for the UNHCR Regional Office in Bangkok. John Quinley is with the group Fortify Rights.
JOHN QUINLEY: Every day that goes by could mean more loss of life on the boat. And so we believe that governments in the region should urgently conduct search and rescue operations to be able to locate the boat and allow them to disembark and provide protection for these refugees.
Quite clearly, neither Thailand nor Malaysia wants the Rohingya boats coming anywhere near their shores. They don’t want the Rohingya. They don’t want to find the Rohingya. Out of sight, out of mind seems to be the general attitude of both the Malaysian and Thai governments when it comes to Rohingya boats.
SULLIVAN: Phil Robertson is deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch. He says both countries have, in recent years, helped people on the boats with food and water. But now…
ROBERTSON: You know, it sounds a lot like the policy that goes back to 2008, which was a straightforward pushback policy where the Thai navy was caught, basically, carrying people out to sea, towing them for hours and hours and then cutting them loose to float away and die.
Bangladesh on Thursday called on the surrounding countries of the Andaman Sea to rescue Rohingya refugees adrift for weeks.”Other states, particularly those, on whose territorial water the vessel has been found bear the primary responsibility and they should fulfill their obligations under international law and burden-sharing principle,” said the statement issued by Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry.
Ninety Rohingya refugees, including 65 women, departed Bangladesh on Feb. 11, 2021, hoping to migrate to Malaysia or any other suitable third country on a risky sea route by boat, dreaming of a better life.
But the boat went adrift after the engine failed when crossing the Andaman Sea, according to a statement issued by international rights watchdog Fortify Rights on Tuesday.
Citing family members of some stranded Rohingya as the source, the statement added that so far more than five refugees have lost their lives on board, while conditions of many others were critical due to starvation and dehydration.
The UN Refugee Agency in a statement issued on Wednesday urged countries surrounding the Andaman Sea to come forward to rescue the stranded Rohingya people.
The Andaman Sea lies to the southeast of the Bay of Bengal, south of Myanmar, west of Thailand, and east of India’s Andaman, and the Nicobar Islands.
“We have alerted the authorities of the relevant maritime states of these reports and appealed for their swift assistance, should the vessel be found in their area of responsibility for search and rescue. Immediate action is needed to save lives and prevent further tragedy,” said Indrika Ratwatte, the director of the UNHCR Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific.
However, Bangladesh said based on international obligations, other countries should come forward this time instead of the traditional practice of throwing the liability to it.
“The boat has been traced approximately 1,700 km (1,056 miles) away from Bangladesh at a location which is approximately 492 km (305 miles) from Myanmar, 363 km (225 miles) from Thailand, 281 km (174 miles) from Indonesia and 147 km (91 miles) from India,” said the statement, adding that the location is far off the territorial waters of Bangladesh and proximate to other littoral states.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has alleged a nexus between the ruling Telangana Rastra Samiti (TRS) and “certain officers” in the police department in issuing passports to Rohingyas refugees.“About 32 passports have been issued from a single address in Nizamabad constituency and another 40 from Bodhan — but the government is silent about this. This is a matter of national security,” claimed Member of Parliament D. Aravind on Sunday.
The MP charged that the refugees moved to Bangladesh from Myanmar first and then to West Bengal. He accused the Mamata Banerjee government of issuing Aadhaar cards.
Mr. Aravind read out, what was purported to be a police investigation report into the activities of the Rohingya refugees which said that they have been involved in many criminal activities. The extent of the illegally obtained passports came into the open only when alert customs personal at the international airport quizzed them on noticing their “peculiar accent” whereas the police department, which actually verifies the addresses, had been clueless, he alleged.
orts have been issued after they migrated to Telangana with the “active connivance” of the government here, he claimed at a press conference.
Meanwhile, earlier in the morning, the legal cell of the party took out a rally at the Secunderabad courts demanding justice to the slain lawyer couple near Manthani and arrest of the culprits responsible.
Slogans of – we want Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao to respond, we want justice, we condemn the government murders, it is a shame critics of this regime are being silenced – were raised and a delegation also proceeded towards Gunjapadugu village of Manthani constituency to meet the family of Vaman Rao.
Party MLA T. Raja Singh demanded the government unravel the conspirators behind the murders as the lawyer couple had also filed public interest litigation against the Kaleshwaram irrigation project.
In response to the needs of Rohingya refugees, IOM is working towards strengthening security and social cohesion between Rohingya refugees and the host communities in Cox’s Bazar District through its Safe Shelter programme, funded by the Government of Japan. Recently, Pradip’s house has been upgraded through this programme—one of 1,000 families to have received the same type of support.
When the monsoon season started in Cox’s Bazar last year, boatman Pradip Shah Das in Teknaf Upazila and his family were forced to take shelter at their neighbor’s house. Their house was badly damaged in the torrential rain. “The house where I used to live was ooded. When the storm started, we had to find shelter elsewhere,” recounted 37-year-old Pradip.
During the reporting period, IOM provided cash grants to upgrade their shelters to 1,000 host community families identied and assessed as vulnerable in Teknaf. Teams organized a technical training for 450 local carpenters on shelter improvement and maintenance that incorporates Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) features, to support families with the construction of their shelters.
The objective of the training was to use the knowledge acquired to enable beneficiaries to build disaster-resilient shelters after purchasing shelter upgrade materials. Technical supervision of the upgradation work is ongoing to meet the requirements of the second and third tranches of the cash grants.During the reporting period, IOM completed the distribution of the first tranche of conditional and unrestricted cash grants for 1,000 households in the host community.
A total of 561 families also received their second and 391 families received a third tranche for their shelter upgradation in Sabrang and Nhila Unions. “Now I have a new house which is stronger than the previous one,” Pradip said. “During disasters, I used to take shelter at other people’s houses, but now people can take shelter at my house.
Rohingya refugees are fleeing India or going underground amid fears that the government will arrest them for unauthorized entry into the country.In the past month, security forces have intercepted scores of Rohingya across India and sent them to jail, triggering a panic among the country’s Muslim refugee community who fled violence in Myanmar and took refuge in India.
“Some hundreds of Rohingya were living in West Bengal for few years. Almost all of them have disappeared in the past month after some Rohingya were arrested in the state. Many have gone in hiding in other Indian states. Others have entered Bangladesh,” said Rohingya refugee Nizam Uddin, who crossed to Bangladesh with his mother, wife and three children last month after living in a village in eastern Indian state of West Bengal for three years.
“If my family got arrested, Indian authorities would have sent us to jail, before finally pushing us back to Myanmar. Myanmar is still very unsafe for the Rohingya. We do not want to return to that hell. I got terribly scared of being arrested. So, I chose to flee India,” he told VOA.
An official at the Indian home ministry desk that handles issues related to refugees declined to comment on the claim of a crackdown on Rohingya refugees.
To escape discrimination and violence in Myanmar, minority Rohingya Muslims have for decades fled from the Buddhist-majority country to neighboring Bangladesh and other countries, including India. A year ago, it was estimated that 40,000 Rohingya refugees lived in India, scattered across different states.
Being stateless in their home country of Myanmar, the Rohingya are unable to travel to another country legally. India, which did not sign the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, treats all Rohingya entering the country as illegal immigrants. An estimated 300 to 500 Rohingya are currently being held in Indian jails on charges of illegal entry.
Myanmar’s stateless, conflict-scarred Rohingya community are on edge with the return of military rule, fearing further violence in a restive part of the country where others have shown support for the new regime.Much of the long-persecuted Muslim minority have spent years in cramped displacement camps, with no freedom of movement or access to health care, living in what rights groups call “apartheid” conditions.
They are still reeling from a 2017 military crackdown that razed entire villages and sent around 750,000 Rohingya fleeing across the border into Bangladesh carrying accounts of rape and extrajudicial killings.
“Under a democratic government, we had a little hope we could go back to our old home,” said a 27-year-old, who asked not to be named, from a camp near the city of Sittwe.
“But now it is certain we will not be able to return.”
Myanmar and its generals are on trial in a U.N. court for charges of genocide from the 2017 violence in northern Rakhine state, where the majority of the country’s Rohingya population lived before their exodus.
Army chief Min Aung Hlaing, who now heads the country’s new junta, repeatedly claimed the crackdown was necessary to root out insurgents in northern Rakhine state.
“There is a real risk that (this regime) can lead to new violence in Rakhine,” said Tun Khin, president of the Burma Rohingya Organisation U.K. lobby group.
Shortly after seizing power, the junta promised to abide by plans to repatriate the refugees from Bangladesh – a scheme that has been in limbo for years.
But “no one believes a word they say,” Tun Khin said.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the civilian leader ousted and detained by the generals last week, had traveled to The Hague to defend them from genocide charges while in office.
But across the border in Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees have sent messages of support to anti-coup protesters calling for her return.
The existing atmosphere within Myanmar throws a shadow of complete ambiguity. And hope is bleak for the upcoming future. Though many spectators believe the democratic government hardly exercised any of its egalitarian power, the Rohingya issue has been looming large in the background. The sudden seizure of power by the military government has thrown the fate of the Rohingyas, not only in the Rakhine state but in neighbouring Bangladesh, in question.
Many, even the Rohingyas themselves, had hoped for this issue to cease with the heralding of a new democratic government in Myanmar. However, on the contrary, after the National League for Democracy (NLD) government came to power in 2016, after decades of military and quasi military rule, the problem has more or less remained the same or rather has escalated. There are quite a few reasons for this. There has also been no policy to integrate the Rohingyas into Myanmar society in a way that does not upset the majority-Buddhist nationalists. Like the nationalists, the government also seems to view the Rohingyas as ‘outsiders’ to their country. In addition, the attempt of NLD to be hand-in-glove with the army has been quite evident throughout its rule.
In any case, the last major clampdown by the ‘Tatmadaw’ (the Myanmar army) on the Rohingya population in 2017 led to a massive exodus of more than 700,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh; this movement caused a sharp increase in the Rohingya population of Bangladesh to around 866,457. This has caused worry and discord between the two nations since the repatriation efforts have seemed half-hearted and ineffective till now.
Recently, in a virtual dialogue, both Myanmar and Bangladesh in mediation with China agreed to begin the repatriation process later this year. The Myanmar democratic government named only a little more than 300 Hindus they are willing to take back in the camp areas. The question of the rest of the majority was not discussed. The current military coup throws the existing dynamics in chaos.
Oregon’s Rohingya community was shocked to find their home country of Myanmar added to the Trump travel ban in 2020. Now that President Biden has revoked the ban, will the administration acknowledge the crimes committed against their people?
On his first day in office, President Biden repealed the Trump administration’s ban on immigration from several Muslim-majority and African countries. In a statement, Biden said “Those actions are a stain on our national conscience and are inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all.”
Suddenly, many immigrant communities in the United States were granted a renewed hope that they could reunite with relatives still living abroad. But there are still many challenges for immigrant communities in the Pacific Northwest. Many have been working for years to help family members resettle from abroad to live with them.
That’s the case in Oregon’s Rohingya community. The Rohingya have faced significant displacement across the region since the 1970s, but that displacement skyrocketed in 2017 when the United Nations estimates that at least 10,000 Rohingya were killed by Myanmar’s state forces. The U.N. described the attacks as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
(It’s worth noting that both names of the country — Burma and Myanmar — are contested: some critics say Myanmar is problematic because it’s the name that was elevated by the military junta that took over several decades ago and hasn’t been approved by the citizens; others say Burma is problematic because it’s the colonial name, and the country’s current government argues it refers to a single, large ethnic group and isn’t inclusive of all residents.)
As a result of the widespread violence, nearly a million Rohingya have fled their homeland of Myanmar. Most are refugees in the neighboring country of Bangladesh, but about a thousand have resettled here in Southeast Portland.