Rohingya refugees living without hope in India
By Syed Mohammed
March 2, 2014
HYDERABAD: When they arrived in the city a little over three years ago from Myanmar, the Rohingya refugees were hopeful of a new life and emancipation from military junta's persecution. While their new home did assuage their feelings of utter hopelessness, lack of steady employment remains a major cause for concern.
The Rohingya influx began in the aftermath of the ethnic violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, with the first batch arriving in the city in October 2011. From a mere 35 in October 2011, their number shot up to over 1,500 in just three years. They are now spread across five neighbourhoods - Balapur, Barkas, Shaheen Nagar, Kishan Bagh and Shastripuram - all in the Old City.
But most of them are without work. For instance, Dudey Miya's daily trips to the local labourer point, popularly known as adda, in Barkas to find work are often unfruitful. Three days a week, he is forced to return to his dingy room, dejected and jittery. "I have a wife and five children. How can I feed them when I rarely get work? Just imagine my plight if any of them fall sick. A refugee card entitles me to certain benefits but I am yet to get one. I have been waiting for months," he says.
Like Miya, 35-year old Noor-ul-Haq is also waiting for his refugee card. He says that he lacks the wherewithal to make trips to the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Delhi. "Each trip costs us a minimum of Rs 1,800. We cannot afford to pay this money even once a year. Some of us have taken loans to go to Delhi but now they are unable to pay them off," he laments.
While donations from NGOs and individuals do come in, others believe the Rohingyas have outstayed their welcome. From expressing apprehensions over policemen knocking on their doors in the aftermath of the Mahabodhi Temple serial blasts last July, to being easy targets for anti-social elements, the refugees are being increasingly harassed. Some, in hushed tones, have also claimed that there have been instances of sexual assaults.
They refuse to elaborate on the incidents of sexual exploitation and do not want to identify men involved in such cases out of fear. "If I open my mouth, they might go to any extent to silence me. Some of my countrymen who launched a meek protest were beaten up severely," one of the refugees said on the condition of anonymity.
"We are frequently asked to show our documents as we are easily identifiable. We have been robbed on the streets and our mobile phones have also been snatched," says Khaleel Hussain (name changed). "But things are a little better now," he quickly adds.
Observers say that as many as 40 asylum seekers, including women and children, have left the city to other parts of the country in search for better livelihood and hoping for acceptance. Mazhar Hussain from Cova, an NGO and implementation partner of UNHCR, says, "Let us assume that there were 50 people at the adda before the Rohingyas arrived. Now, there are more than 50 of these refugees who look for work. This is bound to upset the local work force," he says.