An estimated 730,000 Rohingyas had crossed into Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh three years ago to flee the persecution in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Although the Rohingyas, who are currently residing in Bangladeshi camps as refugees, wish to return to their homes in Rakhine State, very little has been done to create a safe environment for their return.
The challenges facing the Rohingya people, described by the United Nations as “the most persecuted minority globally, have unfortunately continued following their arrival in Bangladesh.
Before their mass exodus to Bangladesh in 2017, the Rohingya people were the largest Muslim group in Myanmar. The majority of them used to reside in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. According to various estimates, they numbered around one million.
Myanmar government, for an extended period of time, has regarded the Rohingyas as ‘stateless’ people within Myanmar. They have, therefore, been denied citizenship.
Even before the 2017 mass exodus, the Rohingya people described by the United Nations as “the most persecuted minority in the world,” had been forced to leave Myanmar in several ethnic cleansing efforts by the Myanmar army and the extremist Buddhist groups. However, the Myanmar military’s and Buddhist extremist groups’ efforts to drive the Rohingyas out of Myanmar reached the height in the latter half of 2017. In August of the same year, the military and militias attacked the Rohingya villages in Rakhine State. They burnt homes, tortured, and killed many Rohingya civilians.
Compelled by the circumstances, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya started to flee their villages. They began their journey to Bangladesh, believing that a foreign land would be safer than their homes in Myanmar.
More than a million Rohingya refugees live in the camps situated in Cox’s Bazaar (Bangladesh), with an estimated average population of 100,000 people per square mile. Among the refugees living in the camps, almost 50 percent are children, and there are more women than men. They have been living in makeshift shelters made of bamboo and plastic sheets. Understandably, any structures made of such materials are likely to be intolerably hot in the summer, exposed to the winds and rains during the monsoon season, and extremely cold in the winter.
The Rohingyas are bound to work secretly outside the camps, as they are not allowed to work and cannot leave the camps without the permission.
The Bangladeshi government and civil society made many attempts, and the international community so that the Rohingyas living in Bangladesh could safely return to their home country.
However, these repatriation efforts failed continuously, as Myanmar repeatedly failed to create a safe and secure environment for the Rohingyas on their side of the border.
Many experts strongly believe that Myanmar’s military-controlled government has made efforts to discourage the Rohingyas from going ahead with voluntary repatriation. Hence, the attempts to begin a safe and dignified repatriation process have failed as refugees refuse to go back, fearing more violence.
In 2019, many local, national, and international non-government organizations called for human rights for all to be recognized in Rakhine State. They also emphasized that the Rohingya refugees should decide the conditions for their return to Myanmar. However, there is no end in sight for this crisis, and a peaceful solution is unlikely to arrive anytime soon.
Beenish Ashraf is a member of the Global Affairs Writers’ Association. She is the author of several articles about human rights, humanitarian crises, cultural hegemony, digital media, and information war.
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