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RMMRU eSymposium series on Covid-19 and Migration: ‘Hunger, Exploitation, Hate Crime and Xenophobia: Rohingyas in Land and at Sea’.
9 Jul 2020 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the lives and livelihoods of people all over the world. It has disproportionately harmed the marginalised – refugees, asylum seekers and the stateless people. The Rohingya survivors of Myanmar’s genocide are no exception.
The condition of Rohingyas in Myanmar including those in the IDP camps is particularly dire. With a plethora of discriminatory administrative restrictions, famine like conditions prevail in northern Rakhine. In violation of the explicit order of the International Court of Justice to protect the Rohingya, the Myanmar government continues to pursue its genocidal policies against the Rohingya, causing internal displacement of thousands. Many more are forced to flee to Bangladesh and the other countries of south-east Asia.
There are more than 1 million Rohingyas in Bangladesh, 300,000 in Saudi Arabia 150,000 in Malaysia, 30,000 in India and tens of thousands more scattered across the world. The refugee camps have very rudimentary facilities. Under the Covid-19 situation, available services have been drastically curtailed. Most Rohingyas in informal camps and shanties in urban settings live in crowded conditions with poor water and sanitation facilities. All these make them particularly vulnerable to Covid-19.
A large number of Rohingyas have to fend for themselves and work as wage labourers in the informal sector. The lockdowns and the overall economic slowdown have robbed them of livelihood opportunities and pushed them into an abyss of malnutrition and hunger. The absence of any social protection mechanisms have further exposed them to coronavirus infection and other diseases.
Refugee and asylum seeking Rohingyas are being subjected to various forms of exploitation. Those that can still find work may have to work longer hours with reduced wages, and face degrading treatment. The condition of women and children is distressing. The presence of men at home for most of the day compounded with additional stresses and strains, exposes makes many women vulnerable to domestic violence. The prolonged closure of counseling and legal aid clinics due to Covid-19 has further limited their ability to seek support.
These conditions are particularly propitious for human trafficking and smuggling. Anecdotal evidence indicates that, taking advantage of the worsening condition of the Rohingyas in Covid19 situation, trafficking and human smuggling syndicates have bolstered their operations to aggressively recruit Rohingyas in distress. The region has witnessed the recent plight of the Rohingya people drifting on traffickers’ boats with no adequate food, drinking water or energy supplies – in the Andaman Sea and the South China Sea. These are stark examples of the Rohingyas’ predicament who have been subjected to both border closures by states and extortion by the traffickers.
Increasingly in the host countries and in Myanmar, Rohingyas are being labelled as “carriers of the virus”. This is in addition to their regular labels as “drug traffickers”, “agents of human trafficking” and thus threats to “national security”. Umpteen number of cases of Rohingyas being subjected to hate crimes have been reported. Often such stigmatization, hate crime and xenophobia are state condoned and echo the genocidal ideology of Myanmar, the principal perpetrator of genocide.
The RMMRU eSymposium on ‘Hunger, Exploitation, Hate Crimes and Xenophobia: Rohingyas in Land and at Sea’ organised in collaboration with the Free Rohingya Coalition will elaborate on the above issues. An all-Rohingya panel will shed light on conditions in camps and settlements, livelihood opportunities, availability of state and NGO support, vulnerabilities and gender issues. They will explain how this affects Rohingyas living in Myanmar, in the countries of asylum (Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia) and those stranded in sea.
You are cordially invited to join the event.
The eSymposium will be held at 4pm Dhaka time (10am GMT). The log-in facility will be operational 15 minutes prior to the programme. You are requested to log in early to ensure your participation. The programme will also be broadcast live in RMMRU Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RMMRU/