Refugee crisis in South Asia
A.S.M Riad Arif, SARRC Silver Jubilee Scholar, South Asian University, New Delhi : At this moment, South Asian nations are seriously facing a crisis of refugees which have had a terrible impact on economy, politics and social life. It is a question of the human security for this region as well.
Refugees and migration are a global crisis now, especially since after the Arab Spring. As a small part of the world, South Asia hosts a massive number of refugees on the globe. With their impoverished economy, Bangladesh, India and Nepal are receiving a great number of refugees while Afghanistan generated them. Though geographically Myanmar is a South East Asian country, it has produced more than 10 lack Rohingya refugees which are living in Bangladesh in overcrowded refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district. According to the UNHCR, Rohingya people are the most persecuted ethnic group in the world. They are fleeing hunger, running for their lives or their freedom from their governments. As a stateless minority group, the Rohingya people have long faced persecution in a country that neither recognizes nor wants them. In hosting the unbelievable number of Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh has faced economic, social and security challenges. Apart from these, Bangladesh has also become weary about the environmental consequences that accompany refugee flow.
Rohingya can speak the dialect of Chittagong, so it’s very easy to identify them. Their color and race are almost the same as the local community. Some of them are trying to get a Bangladeshi passport using fake documents and taking support from local brokers. They are even avoiding the biometric registration run by the government of Bangladesh. The refugees are unquestionably the most helpless people and human trafficking syndicates are very much active to take advantage. They promise to send them to Malaysia or Saudi Arabia by taking money from them. Recently the Saudi and Malaysian government discovered that some of the Rohingysa are illegally living there with Bangladeshi passport. Recently, a remarkable number of mass graves and slave camps have been discovered in the forest of Thailand. By the name of ethnic cleansing, the Myanmar Government responded to a ruthless crackdown with this community.
Many of the Afghanis were living as refugees in Pakistan during the time of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. During that period, more than 60 thousand Afghans came to India as refugees and yet the Indian government does not provide them the refugee status. The Iranian and Tibetan refugees have also been a problem for India for a long time. Statistic says that more 150,000 Tibetan refugees have fled to India in the last six decades.
During the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971, the Indian government opened its border for the Bangladeshi people. And 10 million people took shelter in refugee camps in West Bengal, Assam or Tripura. But after the war, many of them did not return to their homeland. Many Chakmas fled the Chittagong Hill Tracks in Bangladesh to Arunachal Pradesh in India during dispatch of Kaptai Dam in the 1960s. They have been fighting for citizenship for over six decades. That is also a crisis for both the neighbor states.
The primary instruments of international refugee protection are the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. But except Afghanistan, none of the South Asian states ratify the UN Convention Relation to the Status of Refugees.
All these refugee crises demand a regional response. ASEAN and SAARC should work together with international organization like UNHCR and other UN Agencies. They should also come up with a legal framework.