A SHADOW OF REFUGEE: ROHINGYA REFUGEES IN INDIA
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Context: According to a new report titled "A Shadow of Refuge: Rohingya Refugees in India", India is not granting leave permits to Rohingya refugees who have completed refugee status assessments with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and "gained approval from third countries for resettlement."
- The Azadi Project, a women's rights nonprofit, and Refugees International, a global NGO that promotes the rights of stateless persons, worked together to create the report.
Concerns Raised in the Report
Refusing exit visas
- According to the study, "instead of refusing exit visas, India can help facilitate more resettlement opportunities" by campaigning for resettlement in ally countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, and other European nations at forums such as the G-20 meeting.
- On the one hand, they are barred from leaving when allowed to resettle in another country, while on the other hand, the Rohingya in India are labelled as "illegal migrants," face growing "anti-Muslim and anti-refugee xenophobia," and live in constant fear of being deported back to Myanmar, "to the genocidal regime from which they fled."
Action against civil society
- Despite efforts by the judicial system and civil society on behalf of the Rohingya, "those who speak out for the Rohingya are being threatened, particularly with the loss of permission to access foreign funding," according to the report, adding that "such voices should be supported, not constrained."
- Arbitrary detention is one of the most serious problems affecting 40,000 Rohingya refugees in India.
- According to the study, once caught up, they are confined in "holding centres" with "deplorable" circumstances.
- Separating Rohingya children from their parents during detention remains another grave challenge, the study states.
- Actual and potential deportations have also instilled terror in the Rohingya population, causing some to return to Bangladeshi camps.
- Even though the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the International Genocide Convention all require India not to return the Rohingya to Myanmar, "the Supreme Court accepted the government's arguments that the Rohingya were a threat to national security and refuses to stop deportation," according to the report.
Poor living conditions
- The study describes the poor living conditions of the Rohingya in slum-like settlements with no safe running water or toilets, as well as no access to basic healthcare, education for children, or employment possibilities.
Downgrading UNHCR cards
- Initially, UNHCR cards offered access to some degree of education and livelihoods, as well as protection from incarceration and deportation, but the government now claims that "UNHCR refugee status without valid travel documents is of no consequence in India."
- Due to the downgrading of UNHCR identities, the Rohingya are unable to obtain an Aadhaar card, which is required for school admissions.
Recommendations Made by the Report
- The study suggested India declares the Rohingya as "refugees with a right to asylum" rather than "illegal migrants."
- India must sign the Refugee Convention and enact domestic legislation concerning refugees and asylum seekers.
- The very least that India could do is "a simple acknowledgement of residency" by acknowledging UNHCR cards as "sufficient for accessing basic education, work, and health services or provision of Aadhaar cards to refugees as proof of residency."
- Better handling of refugees is in India's best interests since it would "give the government more global credibility" and also "serve national security interests, as new arrivals would be officially documented and not incentivised to remain under the radar."
- The Rohingya crisis is a humanitarian disaster that has displaced more than a million people from their homes in Myanmar.
- The Rohingya are Muslim minority groups that have faced persecution, discrimination and violence for decades by the Myanmar government and military, as well as by some Buddhist extremists.
● The Rohingya are predominantly Muslim ethnic groups who have lived in Rakhine State, Myanmar, for centuries.
● They have faced decades of discrimination and marginalization by the Myanmar authorities.
● They are denied citizenship, access to basic services, freedom of movement and other fundamental rights.
● They have also been subjected to repeated outbreaks of violence by the Myanmar security forces and Buddhist extremists, who view them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
- The crisis escalated in 2017 when a militant group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked several police posts in Rakhine state, prompting a brutal crackdown by the security forces that killed thousands of civilians, burned hundreds of villages and forced hundreds of thousands to flee across the border to Bangladesh.
- The United Nations has accused Myanmar of committing genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya, while Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi has denied these allegations and defended her country's actions
- In 2017, a brutal military crackdown forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighbouring countries, mainly Bangladesh.
- The Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh live in overcrowded and unsanitary camps, where they face many challenges such as lack of food, water, health care, education and protection.
- UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies are working to provide them with basic services and support, but they also need a durable solution that would allow them to return to their homeland with dignity and rights
India's Response to the Rohingya Crisis
Inconsistent and Controversial
- On one hand, India has provided humanitarian assistance to Bangladesh and has urged Myanmar to end the violence and restore normalcy in the Rakhine state.
- On the other hand, India has also declared its intention to deport over 40,000 Rohingya refugees who are living in different parts of the country, citing security concerns and legal grounds.
No Refugee Policy
- India does not have a specific law or policy on refugees and is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol.
- India deals with refugees on a case-by-case basis, depending on their origin, religion and political affiliation.
- India has granted legal status and rights to some refugees, such as Tibetans and Sri Lankans, while denying them to others, such as Afghans and Rohingyas.
- The Rohingya crisis is not only a humanitarian tragedy but also a threat to regional stability and security.
- Fuel Radicalization: The prolonged displacement and despair of the Rohingya could fuel radicalization and extremism among some segments of the population, creating opportunities for terrorist groups to recruit and operate in the area.
- Regional Tension: The crisis could also exacerbate tensions and conflicts between Myanmar and Bangladesh, as well as other neighbouring countries that host or transit Rohingya refugees, such as India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
- Undermine Democracy: The crisis could undermine the prospects for democracy and human rights in Myanmar, which has been undergoing a fragile transition from military rule since 2011.
- The Rohingya crisis is also a test of the international community's commitment to uphold the principles of human dignity, justice and accountability.
- The Rohingya crisis is a significant issue that deserves more attention and action from all stakeholders. The Rohingya people have suffered enough and deserve a dignified and peaceful future.
- The region needs a durable solution that addresses the root causes of the conflict and ensures the safe, voluntary and dignified return of the refugees to their homes in Myanmar with full citizenship rights and protection.
- The world needs to show solidarity and responsibility in supporting the humanitarian response and pursuing justice for the victims of this crisis.
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Refugee Policy of India: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/refugee-policy-of-india
Q. The Rohingya crisis is one of the most pressing humanitarian challenges in the world today. More than a million Rohingya refugees have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries, including India, where they face uncertain futures and precarious living conditions. What are the implications of hosting or rejecting the Rohingya refugees for India's security and stability? How can India leverage its role as a regional and global leader to address the root causes of the conflict and promote a durable solution for the Rohingya people?