Demand Resettlement Option for Rohingya Refugees


source: http://immigration.change.org/blog/view/demand_resettlement_option_for_rohingya_refugees
by Lauren Markham April 03, 2010 08:20 AM (PT)
Topics: Refugees, Xenophobia

Burma is internationally recognized as a military state responsible for large-scale abuses of human rights. Ethnic minorities refusing to bow down to Burma’s military junta and its oppressive regime have been systematically run out of their homelands for decades. While thousands of refugees from Burma have been offered resettlement opportunities to rebuild their lives in counties like the U.S., Canada, and Australia, the crisis of the Rohingya refugees from Burma has been among the world’s most neglected and conspicuously ignored.

Today, in makeshift camps in Bangladesh, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya live in utter destitution. In search of economic opportunity, thousands of Rohingya men set out each year from Bangladesh to nearby Thailand and Malaysia on foot and in overloaded homemade boats. If they survive the often fatal journey, they are only met with further persecution. In 2009, Thai officials were exposed for unlawfully intercepting the Rohingya as they floated toward the shore, subsequently detaining them on a deserted island and then dragging them back to sea and certain death.

No matter where the Rohingya go, it seems, they are unwanted.

Perhaps worse than the physical conditions in which they live is the profound lack of hope of a better life in the Rohingya’s future. As it now stands, the Rohingya will live, suffer, and die in these oppressive makeshift camps, in Thai detention, or out at sea.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is mandated to protect the world’s refugees. But where is the protection for the Rohingya?

UNHCR identifies three possibilities, termed "durable solutions," for lasting refugee protection. In order of priority, they are:

  1. Voluntary Repatriation, in which refugees willinging return to their original homeland.

Local Integration, offering permanent citizenship and full rights in the country to which the refugees have fled.

Resettlement, an opportunity to start one’s life anew with material and social services support in a well-resourced country (like the U.S.). Clearly, repatriation of the Rohingya to the oppressive regime in Burma is not a viable option. Local integration in Thailand, Bangladesh, and Malaysia, countries who have denied the the Rohingya basic rights and access to key services, is not realistic either.

Less than 1% of the world’s refugees are offered resettlement. But if resettlement is reserved for people who truly have no alternative, who, we must demand, is more deserving of resettlement than the Rohingya?

If granted resettlement, the Rohingya will have the chance to rebuild their lives in countries with support infrastructures and legal protection. Resettlement will save thousands of lives and create tangible opportunities for the next generations of the Rohingya.

Demand action from the UNHCR and the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement to prioritize the resettlement of the Rohingya refugees and offer them the protection they deserve.

Lauren Markham lives in her native Bay Area where she is a writer, educator and immigrant rights advocate, working for Refugee Transitions and the Oakland Unified School district.

related link at Traumatized Rohingya flee squalid life in Bangladesh, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/15/world/asia/15iht-rohingya.1.20192120.html?_r=1

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