THURSDAY, 17 MAY 2012 00:00MIZZIMA NEWS
(Mizizma) – About 2,500 Rohingya refugees from Burma who have been appealing for asylum with UNHCR officials in India were dispersed from their occupation site outside U.N. offices this week.
Men and women, including those pregnant and scores of children, who had been “camping out” since Sunday were moved out from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office area in Vasant Vihar on Tuesday, according to an article in The Hindustan Times.
“We were abruptly asked to move out, so we have no food or water. Police are not even letting us sit on the pavement,” said Shafiq Abul, an asylum seeker.
The fate of the Rohingya is unknown. An aid worker said, “In India, there is no national legal framework for refugees and there are different approaches to different groups of people. On the basis of asylum-seeker cards given by UNHCR, this group will be issued long-term visas by India.”
Rohingya leaders are calling on international countries to find a solution to the Rohingyas’ plight before sanctions are lifted against Burma. The Rohingya refugee community, a predominantly Muslim group, claim they are persecuted in Burma, are denied rights of citizenship and are abused by government authorities.
“Many of our people are either begging for money in India or working as rag-pickers. If we do not get refugee status, we want the government to send us to another country where we can live as refugees,” said one homeless Rohingya.
Dr. Wakar Uddin, chairman of the Burmese Rohingya Association of North America, has urged the U.S. State Department, the Senate foreign relations committee and the House of Representatives human rights commission to coordinate efforts to address the Rohingya refugees situation in Burma, India and Bangladesh, according to a story in International Business Times on Friday.
“If somehow the Burmese government [manages]to get sanctions lifted and the Rohingya issue is not resolved, we are finished,” Uddin was quoted by the BBC. “There is no hope because they will not revisit this. Whatever needs to be done about the Rohingya, it has to be done before the sanctions are lifted.”
In December 2011, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she discussed the Rohingyas’ status during her meeting with Burmese President Thein Sein in Rangoon.
According to the Burmese government, Rohingya are migrants from India who are not eligible for citizenship. Western nations, the United Nations and India assert the Rohingya are indigenous to Burma. In Burma’s northern Rakhine State, some 800,000 stateless Muslims, mostly Rohingya, account for 90 percent of the region’s population.
Uddin said the Rohingyas’ situation in Burma “has gotten worse since the [Burmese] election.”
“The government is trying to show the West that they are dealing with the Karen [another aggrieved ethnic group]and other groups by giving rights and making a truce. But they are showing the carrot in one hand and the stick for us [the Rohingya]in the other. It’s a distraction and a diversionary tactic,” he was quoted as saying.
Recently, the IRIN news agency reported that Nurul Islam, president of the London-based Arakan Rohingya National Organization, said, “There is no change of attitude of the new civilian government of… Thein Sein towards Rohingya people; there is no sign of change in the human rights situation of Rohingya people. Persecution against them is actually greater than before.”