In Myanmar, the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority is still on-going. While thousands of people are fleeing the country every day, a new threshold has recently been reached.
Bangladesh and India, two countries taking in the great majority of the refugee’ influx, are set to send back their refugees to Myanmar under a recent agreement.
The first deportations started in spite of warnings from the UNHCR, the refugee agency, calling for a safe and dignified return of those who would voluntarily settle back in Myanmar. After five years of persecution, the UN emphasises the ongoing violence and discrimination suffered by the Muslim minority. However, India is already planning to deport 40,000 people, and Bangladesh has provided the names of 5,000 refugees listed for return to the Myanmar authorities.
India’s authorities consider all those who entered the country without a legal permit as illegal immigrants, who will be identified and sent back. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is said to be strongly influenced by some Hindu groups calling for the deportation of the Myanmar refugees. These same groups could prove to be useful to Modi ahead of the 2019 elections. These groups suggest that the Rohingya are easy targets for radicalisation by extremist groups, as well as their possible -yet unproven- links with Pakistan-based terror organisations.
After a first draft in 2017 and under pressure from China, both Bangladesh and Myanmar authorities have drawn up a concrete plan, which enables “repatriations” to start from mid-November. China’s economic investment in both countries gives it substantial leverage. The East Asian country previously supported Myanmar at various occasions, preventing the UN Security Council and General Assembly from interfering in the western region of Myanmar. Originally coming from the Rakhine province of Myanmar, the Rohingya have been welcomed into Bangladesh from the beginning of the crisis, but the cost of basic refugee camps has become a burden for the impoverished country. Indeed, Dhaka has seen international donors shifting from emergency to integration funding. Back in Myanmar, government authorities in Naypyidaw have so far failed to address security, safety and stability issues that have affected and continue to affect the Rohingya population. Therefore, this deal also aims to inform the global community of the many problems that still face the Rohingya.
Bangladesh’s integrity has also been put into question after a revelation from Canadian and UN officials stating that Dhaka has stopped a bilateral programme aiming to resettle Rohingya refugees in Canada. According to Bangladeshi officials, this incentive increased the number of refugees hoping to be resettled in a Western country.
The future of this ethnicity is at stake. Living in the poorest conditions in India and Bangladesh, the Rohingya once hoped to integrate into the societies to which they fled. Today, they are being forced to go back to the very same place where everything started, leaving the question of their survival open.