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Rights Group: Discrimination Affects Minorities, Indigenous Peoples at Home, in Exile

  • VOA News

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walk towards the Syrian border on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain near the Syrian border town of Elierbeh of Al-Hasakah Governorate in

A minority rights group has released a new report on the world’s minorities and indigenous peoples and says stronger rights protection, not walls and travel bans, are “the only effective and sustainable response” to the millions of people displaced around the world.

London-based Minority Rights Group International says that as the world’s leaders prepare to sign global compacts on refugees and migration next year, the rights of the displaced will be subjugated by “the rush by most states to emphasize border control,” said Carl Soderbergh, director of policy and communications. In a news release, Soderbergh said those most likely to get lost in the shuffle will be minorities and indigenous peoples.

The report is focused on the discrimination the group says is often behind displacement, when minorities and indigenous peoples are among those most likely to be driven from their homes during violent conflict or extremist leadership.

A baby cries as Rohingya refugees line up for a food supply distribution at the Kutupalong refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh Dec. 12, 2017.
A baby cries as Rohingya refugees line up for a food supply distribution at the Kutupalong refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh Dec. 12, 2017.

Listing examples, the report notes that in Myanmar, an estimated 600,000 Rohingya Muslims were forced to flee the country in 2017 because of a military crackdown on their ethnic group, and their exclusion from a 35-year-old list of state-defined ethnicities. United Nations officials have described the crackdown as “ethnic cleansing.”

In Iraq, the Kurdish Yazidis have been targeted for violence and displacement, the report says, as well as the Muslim minority in the Central African Republic.

Cows stand by the side of a road as a truck drives with lights on through smog in Greater Noida, near New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017.
Cows stand by the side of a road as a truck drives with lights on through smog in Greater Noida, near New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017.

The report goes on to say that climate change and land rights violations have driven indigenous populations off their lands in Colombia, and mining and industrial developments in India are affecting 60 million people, most of them tribal people or Dalits, a caste once considered “untouchable.”

The report says the status of displaced people as minority or indigenous may affect the level of consideration they get from aid officials, as well as the degree of welcome they receive from host communities.

Soderbergh said governments must urgently address racism and discrimination as not just a root cause of displacement, but also a contributing factor of exploitation during transit and a barrier to integration upon arrival in a new community.

“Simply put,” Soderbergh said, “less restrictions, more protections.”

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