News / Asia

Rohingyas Pass Years in Stateless Limbo in Indian Jail

Ethnic Rohingya boat people rest after being rescued at sea, at a port in Aceh Besar, Aceh province, Indonesia, February 16, 2011 (file photo)
Ethnic Rohingya boat people rest after being rescued at sea, at a port in Aceh Besar, Aceh province, Indonesia, February 16, 2011 (file photo)
Kurt Achin

Hundreds of men belonging to Burma's minority Rohingya ethnic group continue to languish in stateless limbo in an Indian jail, after being rescued at sea more than two years ago.

The waiting came to a welcome end for 18 Rohingya boat people Thursday, as they crossed from India's West Bengal state into Bangladesh. More than 200 other Rohingyas, though, remain in a prison on India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands, in a waiting process that has stretched from months to years.

Rohingyas are a Muslim minority with historical roots in Burma. However, that nation stripped them of citizenship in 1982, and Rohingyas say they are systematically and violently oppressed by Burmese security forces.

More than 200,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh, where some have spent decades in camps while being denied both immigration rights and formal refugee status. Increasingly desperate Rohingyas have attempted dangerous illegal boat journeys to southern Thailand and Malaysia in hopes of finding work and shelter.

India rescued more than 400 Rohingyas at sea in late 2008, after they said the Thai military removed the engine from their boat and towed them out to the ocean, abandoning them without provisions. With the exception of the 18 who left India Friday, they all have languished ever since in an Indian prison facility.

Getting Bangladesh to provide the necessary paper work for their return, the Rohingyas say, often can be a matter of paying police there a bribe, which many say they simply cannot afford.

Recently VOA managed to arrange a phone conversation with several Rohingya prisoners inside the Indian prison in Port Blair. They are unnamed, and their voices are masked, for their protection. One prisoner said desperate conditions drove him to where he is today.

He said life was very hard for them in Burma, where they faced lots of torture. So, he said, he crossed over to Bangladesh 12 years ago with his wife and 5 children.

"In Bangladesh, after the birth of our sixth child, my wife died," he said, explaining that she was sick and that he had no money to take her to a doctor, so she died without receiving any medical treatment. He said he did not earn enough as a day wage construction laborer and could not support his children. That is when he decided to attempt the trip to Malaysia to earn more for his family.

A second prisoner said that under no condition do the Rohingyas want to be sent back to Burma. There, he said, they will definitely face torture. "They will throw us in jail, or even shoot us," he said.

The plight of the several hundred Rohingyas in Indian custody mirrors the much broader Rohingya problem. They are a massive displaced population with neither a state, nor an available mechanism, for seeking asylum.

Speaking to VOA from Bangladesh, Rohingya community leader Salim Ullah said leaders there are reluctant to grant the group refugee status.

Ullah said Bangladesh has its own serious problems with population growth and poverty. Bangladesh will compound those problems by welcoming Rohingyas as refugees, he said, because that will encourage a flood of new Rohingya arrivals from Burma.

International aid organizations say unless the international community steps up to initiate resettlement programs for the Rohingya population, hundreds of thousands of them will continue to live in squalor and be vulnerable to abuse and human trafficking.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs