A league of their own: Rohingya footballers tackle prejudice in Malaysia


Source reuters, 25 Sept

KUALA LUMPUR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Racing from one end of the football pitch to another, the players in bright yellow and pink jerseys pass the ball between them, weaving around their opponents, tackling each other and occasionally, committing a foul.

As a small crowd cheers them on, it looks like any other amateur match taking place on a Sunday afternoon in countless cities around the world. But on this pitch in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, the teams face a challenge like no other.

The players are young refugees from the Rohingya Muslim minority in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, who are trying to tackle the prejudices they face in society in one of the few arenas they truly feel equal.

For Mohammed Farouque, whose perilous journey to Malaysia included a journey on a crowded boat and a stay in people-smuggling camp in the jungle, the sense of liberation is something new.

"Since my birth, I haven’t known freedom," said Farouque, one of the refugees who runs the Rohingya Football Club in Kuala Lumpur.

"We can openly play football here. In Myanmar we are not even allowed to go out of our houses. I had to leave my country to save my life."

Tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled to Muslim-majority Malaysia to escape harsh discrimination in their homeland, where they are not recognized as citizens.

After the perilous and sometimes deadly voyage to Malaysia, their problems are far from over.

The 150,700 refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia live in the shadows of the society, barred from working officially or receiving formal education. Often seen as illegal immigrants, they generally have limited contact with Malaysians.

With football, the Rohingya have more than one goal in mind.

They see it as a way of keeping young members of the community out of trouble, as well as a chance to break down barriers with citizens of their adopted homeland.

"In Malaysia, we are not allowed to work and we have no support. We don’t want our young people to get involved in crime, so we encourage them to get together to play football,” said Farouque.

"We want to show the world the Rohingya can achieve something great," added the 23-year-old as he took a break during a match with another Rohingya team from Malaysia’s central state of Malacca.

‘WE LIVE UNDER THE SAME ROOF’

The Rohingya Football Club was set up in 2015 and its players are aged between 18 and 30.

The club so far has taken on a few Malaysian sides in friendly matches, including teams comprised of staff from the state energy firm and a private broadcaster.

Their initiative has also inspired the Rohingya community in other cities to set up teams.

At the friendly match with the visiting team from Malacca, the two sides fought it out at a community field in Ampang, a neighborhood a short drive away from the city center, where the iconic Twin Towers dominate the skyline.

About 100 other refugees and locals gathered on the sidelines, watching the game and cheering on the teams.

Malaysian Pannir Selvam, who was refereeing the game, said he found out about the refugee football team after he saw the young men training on the pitch.

As well as volunteering as a referee, he sometimes joins in with matches, and says the refugees have shown a "spirit to strive for excellence".

"They were having a lot of fun, I enjoyed playing with the them. I am happy and proud of them," the 60-year-old said.

"We need to do more. We are Malaysians, we live with them under the same roof, in the same country, we need to get to know them better," he said.

Also In World News

Despite their enthusiasm, the Rohingya footballers only train once in while due to a lack of money.

The club needs about $350 every month to cover costs including the hiring of a venue for training – but it is so far relying on the limited resources the refugees can pull together themselves.

OLYMPIC REFUGEE TEAM

For many refugees, the sport provides a temporary escape from their hardship and a chance to call time on the discrimination they face in their day to day life.

"Playing football is very relaxing," said Saiful Shahidul, 18, from the visiting Malacca team, who works on a construction site to support himself and the family.

"I would like to be a professional football player one day," he added, shyly, saying his favorite player is football star Cristiano Ronaldo.

As for Farouque, his ambitions have entered a whole new league after seeing the first ever Refugee Team at the Rio Olympics this year.

"Inshallah (God willing) we will be playing at the Olympics one day like the Refugee Team," he said.

(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, Editing by Katie Nguyen.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

Thai Authorities Arrest And Repatriate Thousands of Myanmar Workers


Source RFA, 1 Aug

myanmar-migrants-market-thailand-june23-2016.gifMyanmar migrant workers hold national flags as they wait for the arrival of State Counselor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi at a market in Samut Sakhon province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, on June 23, 2016.AFP

Thai authorities have arrested and deported up to 10,000 Myanmar nationals working in the country as part of a crackdown on illegal immigrants during the last 10 days, an official from a Myanmar nongovernmental organization that helps migrant workers said Monday.

“Over the last 10 days, there have been more arrests of Burmese workers in Thailand,” said Kyaw Thaung, director of the Myanmar Association in Thailand. “According to [our] list, the number of Myanmar nationals arrested around the country in the past 10 days could reach 10,000—an average of about 1,000 each day.”

Those arrested in the operation led by the Thai army work in markets, shopping malls, and hotels, he said. Some were sent to Thailand by employment agencies.

“Most of the workers have work and residency permits, but they are being arrested because the names of their work places and those of their bosses are different from the ones that the authorities have,” Kyaw Thaung said.

Under Thai law, employers and workers can be arrested if the names of workplaces and business owners are different from those that appear on an official list, he said.

So far, only Myanmar employees have been arrested in the operation, he added.

When Thai authorities arrest Myanmar nationals, they confiscate their Thai work permits and residency documents and transport them to towns such as Myawaddy township in southeastern Myanmar’s Kayin state and Tachileik township in eastern Myanmar’s Shan state for deportation.

When Myanmar workers are sent to the border at Myawaddy, they must pay Thai officials 1,000 baht (U.S. $29) to leave Thailand, Kyaw Thaung said.

Some migrants, including those detained in the Thai capital Bangkok, must pay 1,700 baht (U.S. $49) to brokers at a border checkpoint in Myawaddy, Eleven Myanmar media group reported. The brokers in turn pay 500 baht (U.S. $14) of the fee to Thai immigration authorities.

Myanmar migrants who were detained at a work site in Mae Sot, a trade hub near the Thai-Myanmar border did not have to pay the fee, the report said.

If the workers cannot pay the fee, they have to work on the border guards’ farmlands, Kyaw Thaung said.

Myanmar-Thailand MOU

Myanmar State Counselor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi signed an agreement with Thai Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-o-cha in June during an official three-day visit to make it easier for Myanmar migrants to work legally in Thailand.

The memorandum of understanding that they signed includes provisions to provide proper identity documents for migrant workers and assurances they will be protected from labor abuses.

Many migrant workers in Thailand—especially those in the country illegally—are at risk of being trafficked as sex workers or for slave-like labor on fishing boats.

Granting the largely undocumented Myanmar workforce in Thailand permanent status has been the subject of negotiations between the two countries.

Myanmar puts the number of migrant workers living in Thailand at 4 million, with only half legally registered to work there, while Thailand’s Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare puts the number at more than 1.4 million.

Also during her visit, Aung San Suu Kyi said Myanmar would welcome back refugees who wish to return voluntarily to the country.

In late June, the Myanmar government said it would begin repatriating nearly 200 of the roughly 120,000 Myanmar refugees displaced by conflict who live in nine border camps.

Voluntary repatriation centers will be set up at the refugee camps this month to assist those who want to return home and to be formally processed according to Thai regulations, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.

The centers are a part of efforts by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Organization for Migration to help the refugees repatriate, the report said.

Reported by Zarni Htun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Malaysian activists call on Aung San Suu Kyi to meet Rohingya refugees


Source Asiannews , 21 July

Aegile Fernandez, co-director of Tenaganita, challenges the Burmese foreign minister. A face-to-face with a group of the Muslim minority refugees to hear "their version of the story." And "the best opportunity" for clarifying the position of the government in the dispute between Rohingya and Burmese Buddhists.

MALAYSIA_-_MYANMAR_-_assk_e_rohingya.jpg

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – Aung San Suu Kyi is set to visit Malaysia in August and a local activist group, the Tenaganita movement is calling on her as the Burmese Foreign Minister to meet with a group of Rohingya refugees, the Muslim minority persecuted in Myanmar.

Reached by Free Malaysia Today Aegile Fernandez, co-director of Tenaganita, points out that the NGO is available to arrange a face-to-face meeting between the Nobel Peace Laureate and a group of Rohingya refugees. "It would be wonderful – she added – because they could tell their side of the story".

In the past, Aung San Suu Kyi, icon of human rights and democracy in Myanmar, has been heavily criticized for failing to come to the defense of the Muslim minority. Recently, during a meeting with the UN special representative on human rights, the NLD leaders said they did not want to even use the term "Rohingya" because it is considered a source of controversy in the Asian country.

The Malaysian activist says a meeting between the Foreign Minister and a group of refugees – in addition to the one already on the calendar with some Burmese migrant workers – would be "the best opportunity" to "clear positions" in the dispute between the Buddhist majority and Muslim minority.

"For a long time the international community – adds Fernandez – has been waiting for her to act". It is important, concludes the co-director of Tenaganita, to clarify the matter because even the Rohingya "are part of Myanmar" in spite of the lack of recognition of their status and "the government has no right to expel them".

Meanwhile, government spokesman U Zaw Htay announced the forthcoming signing of two bilateral agreements on migrant workers in the context of the visit of Aung San Suu Kyi to Malaysia. To date in the Asian country with a Muslim majority there are between 500 thousand and the 700 thousand migrant workers from Myanmar, most of them without proper documents.

Official estimates indicate that in 2015, there were 371 members of the Myanmar Muslim minority given assylum in Malaysia, of which only 36 were transferred to the United States at a later date. All others still live in refugee camps.

According to data of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) there are more 53 thousand Rohingya registered as refugees in Malaysia.

Burma: Rohingya abandoned by NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi


Source Greenleftweekly, July 11, 2016
By Habib
Right-wing Buddhist extremists.

The entire population of Burma supported Aung San Suu Kyi when she fought to get rid of the military dictatorship of Burma (Myanmar) during the 1990s.

She received tremendous support from all communities, including non-Buddhist ethnicities and Muslim communities. No one considered what her policy on other religions and ethnic areas was. People just wanted to get rid of the regime.

Suu Kyi campaigned all over Burma, organising and educating people living in remote areas. She formed the National League for Democracy (NLD), and issued a membership card with her signature to whoever joined the party.

Many Rohingyas, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, joined the NLD because they were the most oppressed people under the military government. Some were jailed for working with the NLD. They believed Suu Kyi to be the one to restore their livelihoods.

Today, Suu Kyi says she does not know whether the Rohingya people are citizens of Burma. Nowadays, she no longer speaks the words “unity” and “solidarity”.

No rule of law

We would like to see the government the NLD is participating in uphold the rule of law and respect the dignity and rights of the entire population regardless of race, religion and colour.

We call on the government to act in a timely and appropriate manner to ensure the safety, security and dignity of all people and to ensure a free, fair and equal justice system is available to all.

The NLD government must immediately halt all forms of ongoing persecution, oppression, restriction, segregation and vigilante attacks against minority groups; particularly the Rohingya from Arakan (Rakhine) state of western Burma.

We also call for effective action to prevent ongoing campaigns of racial hatred organised by radical groups, such as the ultra-nationalist Buddhist group MaBaTha (969) Association, which is supported by some politicians, ex-generals and their family members, along with Yangon-based Rakhine people.

MaBaTha, led by Abbot Thi Dagu and the radical monk Wira Thu, has been making wide-ranging attempts to destabilise the country’s peace and harmony by preaching racial hatred. Such campaigns are illegal and contravene the current law, but authorities have taken no action.

Backing the Buddhist majority

Despite her accolades, Suu Kyi’s party has not demonstrated a resolve to protect the rights of the most vulnerable people in Burma. Rather, her party has cleansed itself of all Muslim members who had been NLD members for decades.

Suu Kyi has sided with majority Buddhist opinion. She has been unwilling to address either the Rohingya crisis or other Muslim communities’ plight. Conciliation began with Buddhist communities and left minority issues to be dealt with by the military.

Suu Kyi has never visited or shown her condolences to the hundreds of thousands of displaced people who are victims of state-sponsored ethnic cleansing pogroms. Rather she has remained silent and disregarded their plight because they are not of the Buddhist faith.

Since she was released from house arrest, Suu Kyi has picked up medals across the world, adding to her fame — but she stayed away from Muslim countries.

Before coming to power, Suu Kyi blamed the problems of her country on the lack of the rule of law. She also referred the question of the Rohingya to government, saying it is the government’s responsibility to ensure the safety and security of the entire population.

Since becoming head of state, Suu Kyi has failed to uphold the same laws she once insisted upon. Suu Kyi has been reluctant to protect the Rohingya people from ongoing racist vigilante attacks. She has made no effort to ease the humanitarian crisis or to lift the restrictions across the Arakan/Rakhine state and minority areas.

Despite ample historical evidence and the recognition of past governments, Suu Kyi continues to ignore the Rohingya people. Suu Kyi, on behalf of the NLD, has even requested the United States ambassador not use the term Rohingya.

This is a manipulation against existing communities who are daily enduring the country’s worst crisis. Suu Kyi’s actions demonstrate that rather than standing with victims for an inclusive society, she always takes side of those sharing her Burmese ethnicity.

Suu Kyi’s actions are difficult to understand. Her stance on a robust democracy has been stained.

The reasons are that, although a global icon for democracy, Suu Kyi has never believed in federalism for Burma, as she knows ethnic minorities do not want to live under the rule of the Burmese.

Backing the generals

The military regime’s generals are taking advantage of her dislike of federalism and avoidance of the Rohingya issue. As a result, the generals have been able to gain much needed protection for themselves for the crimes they committed over the past 50 years.

After several meetings with generals, both sides agreed to allow the military to continue to hold three cabinet posts — defence, immigration and border affairs — and the interior ministry, in accordance with the 2008 constitution. Suu Kyi calculated the agreement was the best way to maintain the image of a democracy icon and Nobel Peace Laureate while sharing power with the military. It gives her no responsibility for the Burmese army controlling minority ethnic areas or the Rohingya issue.

Under this agreement, minorities’ rights and federal democracy will no doubt be quashed by military power or languish in a parliament dominated by the Buddhist majority. This is evidenced by the recent parliamentary vote against Rohingya citizenship rights.

The Suu Kyi government’s support for the military-drafted citizenship law of 1982 is an excuse to exclude the Rohingya. It has since been applied to the entire Muslim population of the country.

Despite the fact that Rohingya have become de-facto stateless people, they still have historical evidence and official documents proving themselves as native people of Arakan State.

However, the central rulers are reluctant to recognise their identities, allow admission of this evidence or provide citizenship rights. For example, the government has released Buddhist political prisoners, but gives no consideration to Muslim political prisoners from the central regions and Arakan State.

Suu Kyi has also appointed two ex-military personnel from Thein Sein’s former military government. This action confused and disappointed the followers of other faiths.

Minister for Religious Affairs Ag Ko was the deputy minister of religious affairs under Thein Sein and only favoured the welfare of the majority Buddhist population. And Zaw Htay, who has spread violence across Burma since 2012 via social media, has been appointed spokesperson for the presidential office. That Suu Kyi knowingly appointed these two figures in her cabinet shows what she truly has in mind.

There is no reason for a government controlling the country not to restore and apply the rule of law. Yet today, we still see some politicians, Buddhist monks, famous icons and academics feeling confident to insult non-Buddhist minorities. For example, the Yangon-based actor of Rakhine origin Ne Toe starred in a movie called Stray Grass that openly insults non-Buddhist religions.

In another example, during the middle of the continuing humanitarian crisis in Arakan State, immigration authorities are conducting population checks in accordance with the demands of the Rakhine Buddhist people. At the same time, the government has provided complete assistance for hundreds of Bangladeshi Rakhine settling on Rohingya people’s land in Arakan State.

The new NLD government is keeping the rigid policy of restrictions over Rohingya people’s movement, health care, education, rations, livelihood and rights. It allows the continuation of segregation, divided law, oppression, persecution and mass killings. This has not only affected the Rohingya, but anyone of Islamic faith and other minorities. There are about 150,000 displaced people locked up inside ghetto camps across 42 locations in Arakan State and about 1 million people who have remained in systematic confinement since 2012. International aid workers are also systematically removed and threatened.

These people’s rights have been taken away by the misuse of power. The actions are reminiscent of the treatment of Jewish people in Nazi Germany and are tantamount to genocide. The situation can be improved and resolved if Suu Kyi wishes.

International action needed

In this regard, the Melbourne-based Australian Burmese Rohingya Organisation calls on the international community, the United Nations and its agencies, neighbouring countries and developed countries, including Australia, to pressure the current government to:
• Install equality in laws, a justice system for all regardless of race, religion and colour, and take effective action against incidents of racial attacks and hate speech;
• End all restrictions, oppression, persecution, segregation, attacks and tyrannical abuses against minorities;
• Assist in the relocation of displaced Rohingya and Kaman people of Arakan state and other displaced people from northern regions to return to their villages of origin and provide facilities to rebuild their houses. Return properties and lands seized by Rakhine people and Rakhine authorities;
• Pave the way to equal access to public services such as education, health care and other welfare services;
• Restore citizenship rights for Rohingya and Kaman people and allow for the application for citizenship using access to evidence fairly;
• Stop the relocation of Bangladeshi Rakhine people from Bangladesh into Arakan state; and
• Immediately free all Muslim prisoners including those from Arakan state and central Burma.

We also encourage countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, Britain, the US and Canada to scrutinise and block the entry visas of Burmese people who actively preach racial hatred and anti-social behaviours.

[Habib blogs at Arakan Diary and works with the Australian Burmese Rohingya Organisation.]

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For Rohingya refugees in Aceh, a new home far from home


Source DVB, 11 May

Rohingya refugee Noor Halima with her daughter Yasmin Ara in Lhok Bani Refugee Camp. Noor Halima, 15 year old, arrived in Aceh one year ago with her husband. She was pregnant during the dangerous journey at sea and gave birth in the Indonesian province. Her husband left Aceh for Malaysia a few months ago. (Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh)
Rohingya refugee Noor Halima with her daughter Yasmin Ara in Lhok Bani Refugee Camp. Noor Halima,
15 year old, arrived in Aceh one year ago with her husband. She was pregnant during the dangerous journey
at sea and gave birth in the Indonesian province. Her husband left Aceh for Malaysia a few months ago.
(Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh)

In May of last year, thousands of Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi migrants were stranded at sea for weeks after the Thai and Malaysian governments cracked down on the human traffickers who were taking them to Malaysia. In dramatic scenes that made headlines all around the world, their boats were pushed back out to the open sea by the navies of Thailand and Malaysia until they were reluctantly allowed to come ashore.

In the midst of that tragedy, a group of fishermen from Aceh, a province at the north-western tip of Indonesia, decided to launch an operation to rescue two boats spotted near the coast. Defying direct orders from the Indonesian Navy, they eventually took almost 2,000 people — both Rohingya people fleeing persecution in Burma’s Arakan State and Bangladeshi migrants looking for a better life in Malaysia — to Aceh.

“We didn’t even know who these people were, but we had to save them,” Teungku Tahe, an influential community leader from the city of Langsa who coordinated the rescue operations, told DVB at that time. “We received SMSs telling us not to save the boats if we saw them, but our obligation is to take to the shore anybody who is in the sea, even if it is a corpse or an animal that we find, we have the obligation to save it,” he added.

One year later, all but four Bangladeshis have been repatriated to their country of origin, and, with the help of human smugglers, most Rohingya refugees have gone to Malaysia, where many of them had relatives waiting for them.

Nevertheless, around 250 Rohingya refugees have decided to stay in four camps in Aceh, three of them in the city of Langsa, managed by the local government, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and several local and international NGOs. And the local authorities are doing their best to integrate them into Acehnese society.

“We are explaining to the local community who the Rohingya are, what their problems are and why they had to leave their country. As part of the Rohingyas’ socialization, we are using a cultural approach based on our tradition of Pemulia Jamee [“welcoming our guests”],” Suriyatno, the first assistant of the mayor of Langsa, explains to DVB. “We are encouraging the refugees to work informally with the Acehnese people in coffee shops, fishing boats, and so on, as a matter of dignity and as their human right,” he adds.

The refugees here are relatively free compared those in the detention centres in Malaysia or Thailand: They can leave the camps during the day to look for odd jobs, and the local government is even launching a program to enroll Rohingya children in the Indonesian formal education system. So far, six children have been accepted and are attending classes in a public school in Langsa. “We don’t look at them as refugees, but as human beings. We call them our guests,” explains Suriyatno.

While all of the Rohingya who spoke to DVB recently in the camps in Langsa told us that they feel welcome in Aceh, many of them expressed their desire to resettle in third countries like the United States or Canada, or to continue their journey to their intended destination: Malaysia. “We understand that the refugees didn’t [choose to] come to Indonesia, and that they want to leave. They are welcome here, but if they want to leave, that’s their choice,” says Suriyatno.

One year after organizing the rescue operations, Teungku Taher is still willing to accept the Rohingya in Aceh. “I think the local people will also benefit if they stay here, as they can work with us in the fishing boats or other places. We bonded together during the rescue, and we can understand and forgive easily each other,” he explains.

“If the Rohingyas are better here than in any other place, I think it’s better they stay here with us,” he adds.

Rohingya refugees take some rest in their room at Timbang Refugee Camp, in the outskirts of Langsa City (Aceh Province, Indonesia). Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh.
Rohingya refugees rest in their room at Timbang Refugee Camp, on the outskirts of Langsa City.
(Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh)
A group of Rohingya women and children receive a donor from a Dutch NGO at Lhok Bani Refugee Camp, in Langsa City (Aceh Province, Indonesia). Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh.
A group of Rohingya women and children wait to receive a donor from a Dutch NGO at Lhok Bani
Refugee Camp, in Langsa City. (Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh)
A Rohingya refugee studies English in his room at Timbang Refugee Camp, in the outskirts of Langsa City (Aceh Province, Indonesia). Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh.
A Rohingya refugee studies English in his room at Timbang Refugee Camp, on the outskirts of Langsa City.
(Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh)
Acehnese doctors treat a Rohingya kid who got injured in his head when he was playing football at Langsa General Hospital in Langsa City (Aceh Province, Indonesia). Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh.
Acehnese doctors at Langsa General Hospital treat a Rohingya child whose head was injured while playing
football. (Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh)
A Rohingya refugee gives another a haircut at Bayeun Refugee Camp, in the outskirts of Langsa City (Aceh Province, Indonesia). Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh.
A Rohingya refugee gives another a haircut at Bayeun Refugee Camp, on the outskirts of Langsa City
(Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh)
Two Rohingya men play Badminton at Timbang Refugee Camp, in the outskirts of Langsa City (Aceh Province, Indonesia). Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh.
Two Rohingya men play Badminton at Timbang Refugee Camp, on the outskirts of Langsa City.
(Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh)
Rohingya refugee at Lhok Bani Refugee Camp, in Langsa City (Aceh Province, Indonesia). This seven year old girl is an orphan who arrived to Aceh one year ago with her two younger sisters. Now she is attending an Indonesian public school in Langsa with five other Rohingya children. Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh.
This seven-year-old girl is an orphan who arrived in Aceh one year ago with her two younger sisters.
Now she is attending an Indonesian public school in Langsa with five other Rohingya children.
(Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh)
Two Rohingya men take a nap in their room at Bayeun Refugee Camp, in the outskirts of Langsa City (Aceh Province, Indonesia). Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh.
Two Rohingya men take a nap in their room at Bayeun Refugee Camp, on the outskirts of Langsa City.
(Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh)
A group of Rohingya women relax in Lhok Bani Refugee Camp, in Langsa City (Aceh Province, Indonesia). Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh.
A group of Rohingya women relax in Lhok Bani Refugee Camp, in Langsa City. (Photo: Carlos Sardiña
Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh)
A Rohingya man cooks at Timbang Refugee Camp, in the outskirts of Langsa City (Aceh Province, Indonesia). Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh.
A Rohingya man cooks at Timbang Refugee Camp, on the outskirts of Langsa City. (Photo: CarlosSardiña
Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh)
Two Acehnese men trim the fingernails of a Rohingya child in Lhok Bani Refugee Camp, in Langsa City (Aceh Province, Indonesia). Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh.
Two Acehnese men trim the fingernails of a Rohingya child in Lhok Bani Refugee Camp, in Langsa City.
(Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh)
Two Rohingya women speak on the phone with their relatives in Burma at the entrance of Lhok Bani Refugee Camp, in Langsa City (Aceh Province, Indonesia). Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh.
Two Rohingya women speak on the phone with their relatives in Burma at the entrance of Lhok Bani Refugee
Camp, in Langsa City. (Photo: Carlos Sardiña Galache / Yayasan Geutanyoe – A Foundation for Aceh)

A Year After Landing in Indonesia, Rohingyas Linger in Camps


Source Benarnews, 02 Mar

rohingya-620.jpeg

Sanuar Begum (right) enjoys a meal with husband Abdul Roshid (second from left) and relatives at a camp in Bayeun, East Aceh Regency, April 23, 2016.Nurdin Hasan/BenarNews

Sanuar Begum was among more than 1,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar who landed in the Indonesian province of Aceh last May, when local fishermen rescued boatloads of desperate and hungry passengers off smugglers’ vessels abandoned at sea.

A year later, only about 250 Rohingyas remain at four refugee camps scattered across the province. But although many of her fellow residents at the Bayeun camp in East Aceh Regency complain about being idle and only being able to “eat, sleep, and pray,” because their refugee status prevents them from applying for local jobs, Sanuar and some others say they are relatively content in their present situation.

“My husband says it is much better here because Acehnese are good people. They welcome us very well,” Sanuar, 20, told BenarNews.

Although she had the opportunity to try to leave Aceh and travel with two older sisters to Malaysia – a prime destination in Southeast Asia for Rohingyas – Sanuar said she turned down the offer because she was pregnant at the time. She has since given birth to a baby boy, Muhammad Nasrullah.

Sanuar and the others were part of a mass exodus by sea that saw more than 3,000 undocumented Rohingyas from Myanmar and migrants from Bangladesh come ashore during an irregular migration crisis that hit Southeast Asia in May 2015, and was precipitated by a Thai crackdown on human trafficking and a Thai maritime blockade on smugglers’ boats.

The residents at Bayeun were so-called “Green Boat” passengers rescued by Acehnese fishermen in the Strait of Malacca on May 20, 2015, after the governments of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia refused to allow their vessel to land.

As many as 434 passengers were rescued in that incident, including dozens of Bangladeshi migrants. Now some100 Rohingya refugees are left at the camp in Bayeun. Since May 2015, more than 800 Bangladeshis and Rohingyas have been repatriated in three batches, according to local officials.

The camp is housed in an abandoned paper mill. The refugees live there and are supported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) through aid from Japan, the United States and European Union.

Many of the Rohingyas are children who have learned to speak Indonesian fluently. Some of the grown-up residents have married other inmates and dozens of babies have been born at the camps across Aceh.

“I wish to stay in Aceh forever. But if I was not allowed, I would move to Australia or the United States, according to the IOM. So my wife, five of our children and I can live in peace,” Jamal, a 37-year-old Rohinyga resident of the camp, told BenarNews.

Busy but jobless

But others say they are tired of remaining idle and want jobs so they can earn some money for their families back in Myanmar.

When asked what they had been doing for almost a year in Aceh, some replied in unison, “Here we only sleep, eat, sleep again and pray.”

Many of the other Rohingyas had left the camp in search of jobs in Malaysia, where the average wage for Rohingyas is 50 ringgit (U.S. $12.70) per month, Jamal said.

Like countless Rohingyas, Jamal escaped from Myanmar where members of the Muslim minority flee religious persecution and are treated as second-class citizens.

“I was a cook in a hotel. When the riots occurred, I was beaten up. They fired me after that and I lost my job,” he told Benar, referring to riots in his home state of Rakhine in 2012.

Jamal stands out from his fellow inmates at the camp. He keeps up his dignity by wearing a suit every day, along with a pair of donated shoes.

“I have to save my money. I bought their belongings provided by IOM and I sold them to a nearby market. I have five kids and a wife to feed,” he said.

To kill their boredom while being jobless, other residents spend their time at the camp planting vegetables and raising chickens.

Others take English and Arabic classes, as well as learn other skills.

rohingya-reading.jpgRohingyas learn English from textbooks at the camp in Bayeun, March 27, 2016. (Nurdin Hasan/BenarNews)

“We bought the vegetables planted in their garden, and feed them from their own garden. So they can earn a small amount of money. If they can harvest abundantly, we help them sell it in the market,” said Usman A. Rahman, a local government official who is in charge of the camp in Bayeun.

The local government has been working together with IOM and the U.N. refugee agency to train the camp’s residents in various skills, he said. For example, the women have been taking sewing classes.

“We hope that when someday they move to other countries, they have already mastered some skills to easily get jobs,” Usman told BenarNews, noting that the Indonesian government’s policy did not allow refugees to obtain jobs in the country.

‘All I can do now is pray’

Some of the Rohingyas were arrested in North Sumatra after escaping from the refugee camps and while trying to leave for Malaysia.

They were eventually returned to the camps in Aceh.

These include Asia Hatu, 23, and her son Muhammad Harun, 6.

“I wanted to leave because my husband is in Malaysia. But now I give up. I don’t want to run away anymore,” she told BenarNews. “All I can do now is pray. I just hope that one day there is a miracle that will reunite me with my husband.”

Burmese exploited in Thai tourism sector: report


Source dvb, 10 dec

A woman who works at a hotel in Phuket shows her work permit in her passport. PHOTO: Schyst Resande/Fair Action

A woman who works at a hotel in Phuket shows her work permit in her passport. PHOTO: Schyst Resande/Fair Action

Many migrants working as waiters, gardeners and cleaners in Thailand’s tourism sector face below minimum wage pay, discrimination and no paid leave, according to an investigation of labour abuses in the country.

More than 30 million tourists are expected to visit Thailand’s palm-fringed islands, white beaches, temples and vibrant nightlife this year, and the sector accounts for some 10 percent of national gross domestic product.

However, a report on Wednesday by Swedish groups Schyst Resande and Fair Action found evidence that many migrant workers from Thailand’s poorer neighbour Burma are being exploited in the southern resorts of Khao Lak and Phuket, at hotels used by three of Sweden’s top tour operators.

In all, 29 migrants were interviewed for the report, 18 of them working mainly as cleaners, gardeners and waiters in seven hotels used by REWE Group’s Apollo, TUI Group’s Fritidsresor and Thomas Cook Group’s Ving.

The others were employed by companies supplying the hotels with services and goods including a bakery and laundry company.

“Among those we interviewed, it seems worse for those that work at the suppliers. They have longer working days, they have less vacation and they also face a lot of discrimination,” said Fair Action project manager Amanda Söderlund.

In a joint statement, Ving, Fritidsresor and Apollo said violations of national and international laws could mean the termination of a contract with a hotel.

“There are few companies and organizations that can control all supply chains in all countries of the world,” the statement said. “Ving, Fritidsresor and Apollo are together working with thousands of hotels worldwide, it is difficult for us to follow up on all these individual hotels.”

The operators said that was why they were working with Travelife, a certification scheme for hotels focused on environmental standards and fair working conditions.

THAILAND UNDER SCRUTINY

Almost two-thirds of the migrants in Fair Action’s report said they were paid less than the Southeast Asian country’s daily minimum wage of 300 baht (US$8.35), with a far higher proportion among migrants employed by hotel suppliers.

Three laundry staff said they worked up to 19 hours a day during the peak tourism season with only two days off a month. Another reported working 16-hour shifts with no time off.

Several workers described not being paid for taking time off to treat burns and other injuries sustained in the work place.

Thai workers, by contrast, received higher salaries and better benefits, including better accommodation, longer holidays and maternity and sick leave, the report said.

Söderlund said concerns about “illegally low wages” paid to migrant workers were raised with the same tour operators in a 2012 Fair Action investigation, but little action had been taken.

“We think that the tour operators should step up and take responsibility. They have known there are issues for several years. They can make an impact if they take their responsibility seriously,” Söderlund told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The operators said only one fifth of the Swedes visiting Thailand travelled with them. “It takes more than three tour operators to make sustainable change occur,” they said.

Thailand has come under increasing scrutiny over its treatment of migrants following allegations of human trafficking, abuse and exploitation in the fishing industry and more recently, the processing of chicken for export.

It is one of the region’s biggest importers of migrant labour, yet regulations are enforced loosely and many workers face exploitation and ill-treatment.

Employers frequently confiscate identification documents to keep unregistered workers from running off and to maintain pay rates below the national minimum wage.

Last year, the US State Department downgraded Thailand to its Tier 3 list of worst offenders in an annual ranking of nations by their efforts to combat human trafficking.

The full report can be accessed here: No Holidays for the Burmese

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Obama Praises Refugees in Malaysia: ‘Excited’ to See What You Do in America


Source Breitbart, 21 Nov

Barack Obama (C) speaks with children between the ages of seven and nine as he tours the Dignity for Children Foundation in Kuala Lumpur on November 21, 2015.Ssul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

by Charlie Spiering21 Nov 2015698

President Obama is using his visit to a refugee center in Malaysia to highlight the plight of Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar and remind the world that he’s committed to bringing more refugees to America.

“I’m very excited to see what the individuals sitting around this table end up doing in the United States of America, because my suspicion is that they’re going to do great things,” he said. Obama spoke after visiting a group of refugees at the Dignity for Children Foundation in Malaysia who were on their way to settle in the United States.

“As long as I’m President, we’re going to keep on stepping up and making sure that America remains as it has always been, a place where people who, in other parts of the world, are subject to discrimination or violence, that they have in America a friend and a place of refuge,” he said.

The president has spent his week overseas voicing criticism for Republicans and Democrats who responded to the terrorist attacks in Paris by raising security concerns over Syrian refugees.

The president took the opportunity to remind Americans that the refugees present were “indistinguishable from any child in America” and deserved “love and protection and stability and an education.” He insisted that the nation was a “beacon of hope” for refugees worldwide, reminding Americans that it was their duty to respond to the suffering.

“That’s American leadership. That’s when we’re the shining light on the hill,” he said. “Not when we respond on the basis of fear.”

More to be done for the Rohingyas


Source nst, 20 Oct

The hands of a Rohingya victim of trafficking, forced onto a boat in Myanmar for a tortuous two-month-long journey, beaten and kicked by traffickers as he watched scores die of starvation and thirst along the way. Reuters pix.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has taken proactive measures to address the Rohingya migrants issue, including having frequent meetings with Myanmar and raising the matter on different platforms such as Asean, the OIC and the United Nations.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman told the Dewan Rakyat today that Myanmar must take bigger and concrete measures to resolve the issue.

“We have again expressed our concern to Myanmar in our meeting with President U Thein Sien during his visit here in March.

“During the visit, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had voiced his concern over the number of Rohingya refugees in Malaysia who are in poor condition.

“Malaysia has also taken initiatives to help the refugees through ministerial meetings with Thailand and Indonesia to seek a common solution," he said in reply to a question by Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang (Pas-Marang).

Following the meeting, he said Malaysia and Indonesia had agreed to provide assistance on humanitarian grounds to help some 7,000 Rohingya refugees who had drifted to the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Bay.

"Malaysia as the Asean chair had used its platform to regularly voice its concern and call for a more active role by Myanmar to solve the issue including during 48th Asean Foreign Ministerial Meeting held here in August," he said.

Amnesty International says Rohingya death toll higher than UN estimates


Source aljazeera, 21 Oct

Rohingya migrants stand and sit on a boat drifting in Thai waters off the southern island of Koh Lipe in the Andaman sea on May 14, 2015. A boat crammed with scores of Rohingya migrants -- including many young children -- was found drifting in Thai waters on May 14, with passengers saying several people had died over the last few days. AFP PHOTO / Christophe ARCHAMBAULT
Rohingya migrants stand and sit on a boat drifting in Thai waters off the southern island of Koh Lipe in the Andaman sea on May 14, 2015. A boat crammed with scores of Rohingya migrants — including many young children — was found drifting…

Human rights group details beatings and abuse faced on boats by ethnic minority seeking refuge from Myanmar

Hundreds or even thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar may have died at sea this year, according to a new report by Amnesty International, which says the number of those who have died attempting the treacherous boat journey to Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia is "much higher" than U.N. estimates.

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, has estimated that 370 refugees have died this year in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea in search of safety and a better life. But Amnesty International said in a press release that "hundreds — if not thousands — of people remain unaccounted for, and may have died during their journeys or have been sold for forced labor."

The human rights organization said that it believes the number of Rohingya refugees deaths is "much higher" than the UNHCR figures, based on testimony from eyewitnesses who said they saw dozens of large boats full of refugees and migrants in similar circumstances — despite only five boats arriving in Indonesia and Malaysia, according to Amnesty’s U.N. sources.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group living in Myanmar, which has a Buddhist majority. Although Rohingya families have lived in the country for generations, they were stripped of citizenship in the 1980s and are viewed by authorities in Myanmar as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. In recent years,they have been subjected to anti-Rohingya propaganda and violence.

UNHCR has said that since 2014 more than 1,100 refugees who have departed by sea from Bangladesh or Myanmar have died, and an additional 1,000 people — who were thought to be at sea in May of this year — remain unaccounted for. The majority of the refugees are believed to be Rohingya, but also include many Bangladeshis.

Boat crews abandoned thousands of people in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea in May, after a trafficking crackdown by Thai authorities. The crackdown coincided with the discovery of several mass graves, containing bodies believed to be migrants, along the Malaysia-Thailand border.

Several Rohingya interviewed by Amnesty for its report detailed abuses they had witnessed and faced while at sea.

In one such incident, a 20-year-old Rohingya man, who said he spent eight months on a ship anchored off the coast of Thailand, said he was beaten with plastic pipes with metal inside until his family wired a $1,700 ransom payment demanded by traffickers. He was then transferred to another ship and was eventually taken to Indonesia.

In another case, a 15-year-old girl said traffickers demanded a $1,700 payment to secure her release from a large boat, where she said she had been frequently beaten. The girl told Amnesty that the boat crew called her father, who was at a refugee camp in Bangladesh, and made him listen to her crying as they beat her while demanding the ransom payment.

Other witnesses told Amnesty that people who became sick or were unable to pay a ransom were killed.

While Indonesia and Malaysia have allowed asylum-seekers to stay until May 2016, Amnesty has called on the governments to do more, and for international agencies to take "coordinated action against human trafficking in a way that does not put people’s lives or human rights at risk."

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