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Myanmar Rohingyas struggle to get by

Without an identity, proper houses and employment opportunities, life has been tough for the Rohingyas

delhi Updated: Jul 05, 2016 15:07 IST
Pranjal Choudhary
Pranjal Choudhary
Hindustan Times
Rohingya camp,Kalindi Kunj,Myanmar
As monsoon has hit the Capital, the Rohingyas fear that it might lead to a spread of diseases in their camp.(Tribhuwan Sharma / HT Photo)

The board at the Rohingya camp in Kalindi Kunj reads, “Darul Hijrat”. Darul Hijrat means home of the migrant. However, what kind of a home, it doesn’t mention. Around 230 Rohingya people, who fled South of Myanmar with thousands others to escape persecution have been living here. There are 47 hutments, temporary structures raised on 2,000 square feet area that belongs to the Zakat Foundation, a charity organisation.

Fatima Rohingya’s home is one among them. Her ‘home’ has four loosely bricked walls with a torn tarpaulin sheet over it. It has been collapsing under the weight of monsoons for the past two years. Two month ago, she lost her four-year-old girl to a snake bite and many thought she wouldn’t have the strength to carry on. Fatima said, “I don’t have the time to grieve. I have two other children to feed.”

Fatima along with her three children and husband left their in village in Myanmar six years ago. They were on the run for the four years that followed and Fatima lost her husband to tuberculosis before they could reach the coast of Orissa. She now runs a tea shack near the camp.

The camp in Kalindi Kunj was set up in 2012 by the Zakat foundation. (Tribhuwan Sharma / HT Photo)

This camp was set up in 2012 by the foundation that has been helping the deprived or underprivileged section of the society. The organisation is involved in various projects initiated by the Rohingyas, particularly in Delhi. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has also been supporting them for local integration and resettlement here. The Rohingyas living in the camps have a ‘settled’ status according to the UNHCR. The only document which recognises the existence of the 6,000 Rohingyas in the city is a card granted by the UNHCR.

Volunteers of both the organisations said the toughest task is to make them self-reliant and sensitise locals towards their suffering. Though they are being taken care of in the best possible ways, they continue to be miserable due to lack of education and basic amenities. One of the representatives of the foundation said that now their biggest fear is the rain and the possible spread of diseases like typhoid, dengue, and malaria. Nearly 20 people have already been diagnosed with diarrhoea.

Health workers here fear that rains could trigger spread of diseases like typhoid, dengue, and malaria. Nearly 20 people have already been diagnosed with diarrhoea. (Tribhuwan Sharma / HT Photo)

“Cases of typhoid, dengue and malaria come up almost every day, but at least there is respite from violence. We came here with the hope of a better life. I’m not sure what is a better life or whether we are there yet,” says Abdullah, a youth leader from the foundation.

The camp presently has four toilets, two for men and two for women which were constructed by the residents. But they are in a poor state. “We require a legal electric connection and construction of a lavatory. Water supply is made available through tankers by Delhi Jal Board,which don’t come regularly,” said a dweller of the camp.

“We don’t have an identity. People here are suffering due to a lack of facilities. We recently tried to construct a lavatory for women, however, the construction was demolished because it infringed upon the government land. Now, though there have been cases of our women being molested in the fields, we cannot help the situation, ” said SK Abdul Khan. He says that the police also don’t cooperate.

Language is another handicap for the Rohingyas to obtain employment. Employers are also hesitant to hire refugees and they have to depend on whatever they earn from daily wage labour and the aid provided by charity organisations.

NGOs and self-help groups say that poor language skills and education work as barriers for the Rohingyas in finding employment. (Tribhuwan Sharma / HT Photo)

Another self-help group Don Bosco in association with UNHCR has been organising rapport building sessions for them and training them for different jobs which involve skilled and semi skilled labour like call centre jobs, plumbing, electrician etc.In addition to providing food, medical aid, and books they are given English training.

Suchita Mehta, an official for the UNHCR, said, “The problem with the Rohingyas is that they are not educated unlike the Afghans, who have displayed more employability and entrepreneurship. That is why our efforts are directed towards training the Rohingyas in life skills, professional skills training and market linkage.”

However Ali Johar, a resident of the camp, who works as a translator with the UNHCR disagreed and said it was harder for those who are educated to find a job. He said, “Most employers do not hire us, or they fire us as soon as they realise that we are refugees. It doesn’t matter if we are educated or not. The fact that India is not a signatory of the 1951 refugee convention means that it is harder for us to take a legal path against them.”

“We get very little support. It feels like no one wants to work for our cause. While the Shins and Tibetans in Delhi are offered resettlement, the UNHCR has informed us that our resettlement is not on their agenda,” added Abdul, another refugee and member of the Rohingya Rehabilitation Committee. The association has members in almost all Rohingya camps across Asia.

First Published: Jul 05, 2016 15:06 IST