Rohingya refugees: how long will their suffering be overlooked?

The horrendous tales of Rohingya refugees’ sufferings permeates in what is known as the world’s largest refugee shelter. Cox’s Bazar, a region situated at the southeastern part of Bangladesh shelters thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.

The growing population in the camp is concerning the government; and is now shifting the thousands of atrocious refugees in a remote, low-lying island in the Bay of Bengal; an area exceedingly prone to flooding and cyclone.

In the middle of the ongoing chaos; a new study’s report dictating the aggravating mental health of traumatized refugees is nerve-racking.

Myanmar military crisis, 2017

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General defines Rohingya as, “one of, if not the, most discriminated people in the world”. Now numbering less than a few in million; before 2017, Rohingya Muslims were one of the many racial minorities and largest Muslim community in Myanmar; a predominantly Buddhist country.

Despite a considerable population existence; the Myanmar government deny citizenship to the Rohingya community, claiming them to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Long before the evacuation, due to racial discrimination and violence, hundreds of Rohingya have been fleeing out of the country. The governmental exodus begins on 25th August 2017 post the deadly attack on 30 police post by the Rohingya Arsa militants.

According to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), a medical charity group, more than 6,700 Rohingya; including an estimated 730 children were murdered in the military crisis of 2017. Police forces and local mobs attacked and burned Rohingya villages into ashes. Rape and sexual abuse of women by military forces of Myanmar were also seen in the confrontation; according to Amnesty International.

In 2018, the UN investigations’ published report accused the country’s military of “intended genocide”; the government was trying to carry out “ethnic cleansing”. The case against the Myanmar military known as ‘Tatmadaw’ was also filed in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by other Muslim countries.

Though, the Myanmar government denies any such genocide and says that the military was just executing the Rohingya militants. To this date also, the conflict between the military and the rebellion Buddhists of the Rakhine ethnic group.

Rohingya Refugees: Escaped for life

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees immigrated to Bangladesh during and post the military confrontation. All the refugees were living in Kutupalong, the largest refugee camp in the world, which shelters more than 600,000 refugees.

Already, Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world; witnessing the huge number of immigrating refugees, in 2019 the country’s government set forth that they would no longer accept Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.

Each hut in the refugee camp holds horrifying stories of the genocide, their pain, and suffering to this day in unfathomable. Now with the controversially shifting them to the newly surfaced island of Bhashan Char is causing more distress amongst the already terror-stricken refugees.

Despite human rights groups claiming, the island not being safe for survival, with almost no facilities at all; on 4th December, the Bangladesh government transferred 1,642 Rohingya refugees from the camp to the wrecked muddy island, no bigger than a large city park.

Though engineering firms from china tried to make the island suitable for human inhabitation aid agencies are still not satisfied and worry about the uncertain conditions of the island.

The worsening mental health condition

A new survey reports published on Thursday reveal that the genocide and poor live conditions in the camp have led to “severe mental health crisis” amongst the survivors not only in Myanmar but also in Bangladesh. The numbers are staggering if not surprising.

  • 88.7% of Rohingya refugees shows either mild or severe symptoms of depression.
  • 84% exhibit symptoms of emotional distress.
  • 61.2% indicates symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The report is a 99-page study, made after research conducted from March 2018 to November 2020 and was published by Fortify Rights. The title or the paper read; “The Torture in My Mind: “The Right to Mental Health for Rohingya Survivors of Genocide in Myanmar and Bangladesh“.

The report also says, “91.3% of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh face some level of difficulty carrying out common daily activities, such as maintaining basic hygiene, engaging in social or religious activities, or performing other daily tasks. Of those who experience functioning difficulties, 62.3% attributed these difficulties to their ailing mental health”.

Some work is being done by the Bangladesh government, but it is not answering the needs of the refugee’s Mental health. Now, shifting to a completely remote place will make their condition more abysmal.

Hunting a way out for the distressed Rohingya refugees

According to Dr Ambia Parveen, chairperson of the European Rohingya Council; the best solution to the crisis is peaceful and dignified reparation of Rohingya to Myanmar; she added: “Resettlement or relocation to an island or any other mechanism is not the sustainable solution to our crisis”.

But returning to the place where, they have lost so much would surely not be easy. Many believe that genocide against Rohingya is still going on in Myanmar.

Dr Parveen says, “If the Rohingya sheltered in different countries mainly in Bangladesh are not returned to their home country Myanmar with citizenship rights and safety, it may prompt some other countries to operate the equal type of persecution against their minority people”.