A programme prepared by Patrick Lovett and Gaëlle Essoo.
Thursday 31 May 2018
After spending three years saving thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean, the millionaire couple Regina and Christopher Catrambone now want to help Rohingyas. Their boat, the Phoenix, is sailing off the coast of Thailand and Malaysia in order to rescue Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar by sea. Here, our correspondents report.
Monday 21 May 2018
The realization is slowly dawning on the international community that a shocking crime against humanity is unfolding in Myanmar.
Over 700,000 Rohingya have been forcibly expelled from their ancestral lands in that country by a volatile mix of military aggression and religious persecution, with the country's government largely turning a blind eye or worse.
State-sponsored violence has led to a massive exodus of the Rohingya from the country, a great human wave of refugees who have no choice but to flee for their lives before the onslaught. Many have fled to any country that offers some hope of asylum, however faint, while some have taken to the sea on rickety vessels, searching for refuge in more distant lands.
Malaysian authorities have given refuge to a boat carrying 56 Rohingya, just as Indonesian fishermen recently rescued five Rohingyas who were still alive in a engineless boat without food for more than two weeks. These latest boat people are from a government run camp called Thae Chaung, close to the capital city of Sittwe in Rakhine.
These camps have been called the concentration camps of the 21st century, because of the detention conditions faced by the imprisoned Rohingyas. The military marched Rohingyas out of the capital city of Sittwe to these camps in 2012 after a pogrom in which almost all Rohingyas lost their homes because of violent local reactions to vicious rumors.
Rohingyas cannot leave these barbed wired, heavily guarded camps, and no organization is allowed to serve them on the inside. About 125,000 Rohingyas have been forced to "live" in these camps for the past six years.
The important question is, how did these people leave these heavily guarded camps surrounded by barbed wire, where no one is allowed to enter or leave? Rohingya human rights activists are saying that the government is systematically forcing these detainees out of the camps, working with smugglers to take them to other countries or let them perish while trying to reach Malaysia.
On of this year, I met a few of these former prisoners of Sittwe camps. A man and woman whom I will call Alia and Yusuf had made their way to refugee camps in Bangladesh. They were let go after six years of internment. They "earned" their freedom by agreeing to accept something called National Verification Cards, or NVCs. Among other things, these cards include a false, pre-printed "confession" claiming that the cardholder illegally entered Burma.
I have a photo of that card.
Rohingyas are indigenous people of Burma living in their ancestral lands. They were always citizens, and always voted and elected their representatives until 1982, when the military government stripped them of their citizenship.
As the Burmese government announced its intention of closing down the IDP camps, we were wondering if they will allow the Rohingyas of Sittwe to go back to their ancestral homes. Yusuf, who was severely tortured by the Burmese military, is still being treated by Doctors without Borders. He told me that they refused him entry into the city.
Alia was a professional seamstress with certificates. She was sewing when she was arrested from her home. She told me that young women from the detention center are regularly taken out by soldiers for days at length, raped and then returned back. After getting her NVC, she and her husband tried to enter Sittwe as well, but were chased away by the military, running for their lives. Unfortunately, she lost her husband during the treacherous journey to Bangladesh.
It is evident that the closing of these camps after six years does not herald the return of Rohingyas to their ancestral homes and properties in Sittwe. Instead of rehabilitation and resettlement, Rohingyas are forced to renounce their legal right to be in the country and made to flee.
Unfortunately, Bangladesh is not an option for the detained people of Sittwe. It is about a 100-mile walk northwest, through mountains. The route means going through military post after military post, without permits to travel — something required of Rohingyas even under normal situations. Many of the paths through jungles taken by Rohingyas in the last six months are also littered with landmines. And those Rohingya who are somehow able to reach the border face newly built barbed wire fences which make it impossible to cross.
So the sea is the only option left and the Burmese government is only too willing to encourage this passage. But these waters are not kind to the Rohingya.
In the 2015 exodus through the sea, the United States State Department estimated that about 12,000 Rohingyas were on those boats. Sadly, only 3,000 reached any shore. I met some of these boat people in 2015 in Indonesia. They told me horrible stories of oppression in Burma which forced them to flee. A large number of those boat people were unaccompanied children as young as nine years old.
A year later, Amnesty International issued a statement wondering what happened to the rest of the Rohingyas. We need to keep asking these questions. The world's most persecuted people are depending on us.
Imam Malik Mujahid chairs the Interfaith Coalition to Stop Genocide in Burma. He is chair emeritus of the Parliament of the World's Religions. Follow him on Twitter at @MalikMujahi
The Rohingyas will be relocated there before August, Secretary Mohammad Shah Kamal says
100,000 Rohingyas, who have taken shelter in Bangladesh amid persecution in Myanmar, will be relocated to Bhashan Char of Hatiya upazila in Noakhali.
Disaster Management and Relief secretary Mohammad Shah Kamal came up with the information at a programme at Balukhali camp in Cox's Bazar's Ukhiya upazila.
The secretary said that all the preparations have been completed and the Rohingyas will be relocated there before August.
Earlier on November 14, 2017, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved a Tk2,312.15 crore project for giving temporary shelter to Rohingyas at Bhashan Char.
The Ecnec approved the project titled "Ashrayan-3" for construction of necessary infrastructure for the housing of 100,000 displaced Myanmar citizens, and construction of island infrastructure at Bhashan Char.
Displaced: More than 700 000 Rohingya refugees have flooded into Bangladesh, but monsoon season is coming, and now severe weather threatens their makeshift shelters (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
While the international community fences over whether to name the ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas in Myanmar a genocide, the killing reportedly continues — and 700 000 refugees in Bangladesh batten down to face what could prove to be an equally deadly monsoon season.
The massacres, mass rapes, village-razing, forced famine and expulsions were recognised as bearing "the hallmarks of genocide" on by Yanghee Lee, the United Nation's human rights rapporteur on Myanmar. This came on the heels of a report by the Myanmar military that exonerated all but 10 security force members of any crimes against the Rohingya. Yanghee's statement is the strongest affirmation by the UN of the gravity of the crisis since its human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, warned days earlier that what he suspected were "acts of genocide" were ongoing in Rakhine State, albeit with lower intensity.
Most diplomats such as former United States secretary of state Rex Tillerson have referred to the crisis as "ethnic cleansing". But the term has no grounding in international law — unlike "genocide" and "crimes against humanity". An official UN Security Council designation such as genocide is critical to activate the 1948 Genocide Convention to which Myanmar is a signatory, but the UN has very rarely done so, as in Bosnia and Darfur — and as China is a significant supplier of arms to Myanmar, it would be hard to secure.
The desire of most Rohingya to return to their ancestral lands is thwarted by the influence in the military of Myanmar's ultra-right Buddhist monks, rendering Myanmar's Nelson Mandela figure, Aung San Suu Kyi, powerless. Some Myanmar experts, such as Politico magazine's Nahal Toosi, have argued that her inaction on the genocide, and flat refusal to use the word "Rohingya", and in so doing risk alienating her ethnic support base, reveals her to be a Burman nationalist.
Near the Myanmar border and close to the epicentre of the genocide, Kutupalong is a vast, ersatz camp of 150 000 Rohingya refugees, distinguishable from Bangladeshi Muslims by their dress, language and customs dating back to the mediaeval kingdom of Arakan, which straddled contemporary Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Perched on a hillside overlooking a Red Crescent compound, Abdul Rahim is barely 18, but he carries a laminated card around his neck indicating he is a majhi, a Rohingya community leader, recognised by the camp authorities. Most elders, too weak to escape, were slaughtered by Buddhist and Myanmar army deathsquads.
Rahim's 60-year-old father, Mohamed Ali, was among them: the man was "locked in his house by the army and a mob [acting] together, and the house was burned"; Rahim's 23-year-old brother Osil Haman was shot; his mother, six other brothers and two sisters managed to escape.
"At the time of the attack, I was visiting Kulsumar Akter, a beautiful girl of 16 who I was friends with in a neighbouring village. The army raped her and killed her in front of me. Ten or 12 very beautiful girls were gathered in a house, raped and killed by the army."
Another young majhi is Mohamed Islam (22) from Maungdaw in Rakhine State, a town that was 80% Rohingya before 120 000 Rohingyas were relocated between 2012 and 2016, supposedly for their protection from hostile neighbours, to de facto concentration camps. He tells of the assault on his community by a force of the Myanmar army acting alongside a local vigilante group.
"It was in the afternoon on . Suddenly they attacked. The [vigilante militia] was wearing army uniforms. They were shooting everyone and burning the houses; these were the targets of the Myanmar government. I was running in the yard of my house from the army but an army sniper shot me in the foot and I fell down; the army thought that I had died so they left me. When I opened my eyes, I saw lots of dead bodies; my friend Shokil, who was 27 years old, was killed."
Moved during the night by two fellow survivors, who carried the wounded Islam on a wooden pole between them, he said they encountered village after village where corpses were strewn about. It took the trio two terrifying days to cover the 70km to the Naf River, which marks the border with Bangladesh, and cross to safety.
On arrival in the forest reserve on the outskirts of the southern Bangladeshi town of Ukhia, the tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees initially had to live under the stars, taking their chances with snakes and elephants that killed several. Of the 700 000 survivors who settled in three big refugee camps such as Kutupalong and 10 smaller ones, Unicef estimates that 60% are children.
The camp is dotted with "child-friendly spaces". I visit one, where perhaps 50 children squat on the floor in clusters. Among the scattered smiles there are hard eyes and faraway stares. Everyone here seems to have scarred hearts or bodies.
One of the few elders in the camp, Noor Bashir (56) had a narrow escape: he lifts his bazu shirt and longyi to show me the machete wounds on his legs and right hip.
An August 2017 documentary by Al Jazeera correspondent Salam Hindawi, who managed to get inside one of the concentration camps in Rakhine State, shows Rohingya women gang-rape survivors in tears as they recount witnessing their husbands being taken away by the military to an uncertain fate.
Days earlier and 330km north-northwest, I had been sitting in the modest office of Bangladesh's deputy director general of immigration. She plied me with tea and mishti sweetmeats as her minions processed my visa extension application. Stacked high on the desks of offices below were applications from hundreds of Chinese and Indians as well as Belarussians and many other nationalities, but no Rohingyas. Bangladesh has not granted them refugee status. Even the pre-genocide community of 400 000 who fled repression two decades ago is unassimilated, disallowed from travelling, schooling or marrying Bengalis.
Now the monsoon season threatens the lives of an estimated 100 000 survivors: though the aid organisations have built concrete stairs, water tanks and woven-bamboo, plastic and corrugated iron shelters for the Rohingya, these are unlikely to withstand cyclone-force winds and mudslides.
That my interviews take place on the 70th anniversary of the still unresolved dispossession of 700 000 other Muslims — those of Palestine in 1948 — make the Rohingyas' appeals for the full reinstatement of their citizenship and homes that much more poignant — and desperate.
Wednesday 16 May 2018
Habib (founder and spokesperson for ABRO) has praised Australian government's 31.5 million dollar contribution in response to Rohingya crisis and raised briefly the following issues in the meeting:
1) political interferences including visa bans on military generals and their family members, boycotting their investments.
2) sharing an equal number of Rohingya refugees intake.
3) identities verification process, delaying visa processing and rethink of TPVs and SHEVs.
4) barrier substances of integration and contribution into Australia, the needs of prior job traning and skills.
5) immigration values and Australia international obligations..
After the meeting, Habib passed a copy of his recent book- 'first they erased our name' and also said the Australia intake to include Rohingya has been strongly quoted by Parsuram Sharma-LuitalJP, Brotherhoof of St. laurence, Chin, Karen Kareni leaders.