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Video:  The international community can do much more to help Rohingya.

What next for Rohingya : Michael Joiner, 360info CCBY4.0 What next for Rohingya : Michael Joiner, 360info CCBY4.0

Video:  The international community can do much more to help Rohingya.

Rohingya refugees face an impossible situation; unable to return to their homeland and unwanted by anyone else. Stuck in camps on the Bangladesh border, many have become victims of human trafficking as they seek asylum.

But, as Professor Paula Banerjee from the Asian Institute of Technology explains, there is plenty the international community can do to help.



“The situation has become so much more tense now. There are more killings, there’s more happening,there are more people who cannot be found.

“And our networks, people who are working with, you know, research with different agencies and all, tell me that now the main area for trafficking of Rohingyas is into India, largely into India. For no other reason but the fact that they need to survive.

“Trafficking, whether in humans, whether in narcotics, whether in fentanyl, all trafficking is attached to the crime cartels. So it is not something that is done independently. So yes, there is connivance, but the connivance is there because people are desperate.

“The difference between movement, you know, crossing the border is that of life and death.

“If you are not a citizen of any country, then who will be your voice?

“Human beings individually are very powerless in front of the megastructures called the international community or state.

“And if that is not recognised, if your citizenship is not recognised, then a very incorrect word is used. You are considered as illegal, a human being can not be illegal, your activities can be illegal, irregular.

“But the person concerned is considered as irregular, we say irregular migrant, illegal migrants, the terminology is so wrong and that happens because these people are actually not supported by any states and, you know, whether it’s in the UN or in aid, it is always through the state  that you are represented.

“United Nations is United Nations. It’s not united human beings or individuals.

“So that is why there is a very serious correlation between statelessness and trafficking.You become stateless if you are trafficked because you become sans-papiers and you are trafficked because you’re stateless.

“Whenever there is crises, particularly conflict, because in conflict you have belligerents, you have people actually pursuing you because of your ethnicity, your religion. For the Rohingyas, it’s not just ethnicity, but it is also a question of religion.

“Today in Gaza, people are being pursued not just because they are Palestinians, but also because they belong to certain religious denominations. We cannot deny the fact there is also the race factor. All of these creates or compounds your vulnerability.

“You know, if you belong to a certain religious denomination, you’ll be more pursued. If you are women within that community, you will be more victimised because we cannot deny the fact that womanhood or a third gender person is, in the totem pole of power, much below the majority of men.

“And that is why, you know, it is not just a question of statelessness, it is a question of crises and crises resulting to the fact that if you are considered as unwanted, then you know, your identity is considered as something that the state does not want.

“And you see a state is sovereign, a state has a right to decide who they will want and who they will not. And nothing we do can stop the state from doing that. So, you know, the moment the state marks you as unwanted, you become that much more powerless.

“If you are a refugee, even when you get asylum, you know, you are not considered as an equal to that of the citizens.

“And then if you are displaced, you know, any form of displacement, you are away from your moorings. You don’t have the community networks that are a form of protection. You don’t know the language where you are staying.

“You can’t call for help, how many refugees and displaced people could get any help during the pandemic. They died because they could not get any help. It is our hatred, it is our identities that are considered as so different from these people.

“And that is why when you are trafficked, you have absolutely no safety net.

” I am not saying that they’re, you know, if you are a citizen, you cannot be trafficked. Of course you can be trafficked. Many poor women, many poor girls, many poor boys, are trafficked.

“But there at least you have a family, there, at least you have a network that in the last resort can come for your help. In the case of a displaced person, you have no safety nets. And that compounds the problem.

“You become so vulnerable that your life becomes meaningless.

“There has to be massive sensitisation. Okay? And if you get asylum in a specific country, the international community has to make sure that people have a healthy life there. And the international community also has to recognise its own responsibility.

“You know, Muslim Rohingya’s being thrown out of Myanmar, you know, if the international community says that it is not my problem, then that’s not right.

“We have to go back to the colonial past and see what historically has made the Rohingya so vulnerable. So everybody has to pitch in and make the community more empowered, make them sensitise and give them the basic – the absolute basic – in terms of health, education and support system that they that they require.

“They can be resettled in third countries. And there are many countries that, you know, if they prove that you’ve been trafficked, allow you to give you safe haven in the global north.

“So yes, there are programs where they can settle, you know, they can have a third country resettlement but all of these programs are very dispersed. There is no, you know, nothing that is tantamount to these people having a fixed and immutable set of protection regime or rights to protection. And that needs to be developed, which is, you know, isn’t everywhere.

“If you are a Ukrainian refugee, only you get the protection and yet if you are a Rohingya, you don’t get the protection, that should not be the case.

“I have no problem with Ukrainian refugees getting more facilities. I applaud them. That is the best practice.

“So we shouldn’t say that they’re standards should be pulled down, we should say rather, Rohingya standard should be up there.Every person who is a refugee, a displaced person, should get whatever is being given to the Ukrainians.

“So that is how we can make a change. Rather than saying Ukrainians should not get that, I advocate for the fact that we should say Rohingya’s should get exactly what the Ukrainians are getting.”

Professor Paula Bannerjee is the IDRC Endowed Research Chair on Gender and Forced Displacement at the  Asian Institute of Technology.

This video is part of a Special Report on the Rohingya refugees produced in collaboration with the Calcutta Research Group and the Asian Broadcasting Union.

Originally published under Creative Commons by 360info™.

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