Rohingya refugee crisis – Welcoming culture in Asia?

Sharp criticism of Bangladesh: Rohingya refugees must not be “disposed of” on an isolated island (Press Release)

The seriously traumatized Rohingya refugees would be pushed into an even greater crisis if they were to be confined under such catastrophic circumstances. Photo: United to End Genocide via Flickr

According to the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), the persecuted members of the Rohingya minority from Burma/Myanmar should be better protected and provided shelter in Asia. Further, the organization criticizes Bangladesh and India for the way these countries are addressing the refugee crisis. “The government of Bangladesh should not try to dispose of the refugees on an isolated island without any infrastructure and under conditions that are hostile to human beings,” explained Ulrich Delius, the STP’s director, in Göttingen on Wednesday. He warned: “The seriously traumatized Rohingya refugees would be pushed into an even greater crisis if they were to be confined under such catastrophic circumstances.” Thus, India’s plans to send 40,000 Rohingya refugees back to their home country – despite the escalation of violence – are to be seen as “inhumane and irresponsible”.

On Tuesday, the government of Bangladesh had surprisingly revived an old plan to bring most of the 125,000 Rohingya refugees who arrived there since the end of August 2017 to the remote and uninhabited island of Thengar Char. This idea to solve the refugee crisis was first announced in 2015 – but the plans were dropped again in the spring of 2017, following massive protests by human rights organizations and the United Nations.

Using a motor boat, it takes about three to four hours to get to the island of Thengar Char from the coast in the Ganges Delta. The next inhabited island, Hatia, is about 20 kilometers away. Thengar Char covers an area of 60 square kilometers, and the island is often flooded during storms and during the monsoon period (June to September). In the case of a flood, about a third of the island is under water. Due to the poor soil quality and the hostile conditions, nobody would want to live on the island – although Bangladesh is generally very crowded. In a report published in February 2017, even the local forestry authorities admitted that it would be difficult to settle on Thengar Char. Then, the Ministry of the Environment sent out another research team to work out a more convenient study.

India’s Hindu nationalist government doesn’t seem to get tired of accusing the Muslim Rohingya of terrorism (because of their religious belief) and of instrumentalizing them in the ongoing dispute with neighboring Pakistan. “While the Rohingya are threatened with being deported to Burma, Indian companies benefit from lucrative contracts in connection with the economic development of their home state Rakhine in Burma,” Delius criticized.

Header Photo:United to End Genocide via Flickr