There is an encouraging news that Burmese Immigration has been preparing to take back some Burma-Rohingya[Bengali] refugees, who found to be bona fide residents of Burma. According to Burmese Government sources, this caseload of 2451 was already agreed-upon to take back since 2005 [1, 2]. The delay was to have been caused by the Burmese side in hesitating, at times, to clear people who became married or having extended family. Nevertheless, we must first acknowledge that this is the important step taken by both Burmese and Bangladesh governments to solve the long-standing Burma-Rohingya refugee problem.
FUTURE OF NAYAPARA AND KUTUPALONG
There are about 32,000 refugees now residing at the two refugee camps, Nayapara and Kutupalong . Out of these, there will be numbers of individuals which Burmese Immigration will not give clearance to. Some, if not all, would rather preferred to make a third country resettlement as well. I think we've got to contemplate about the future for those people who the Burmese Immigration will not accept as their citizens or, alternatively, those who may choose not returning to Arakan.
IMPORTANCE OF GRASSROOT INITIATIVES
Amongst our activists, and also the observer friends, there are always self-doubts and the lack of appreciation on the importance of grassroots initiatives. My 22 long years of experience as refugee rights activists, I am certain that the most often neglected part of public policy area is that of refugees. The international media focus would come and go, sadly so, with the rising and easing of the violence. But remember, on the refugee issues, the media can only create public awareness but it will have no capacity to find a proper solution. If so, who would find the solution? We can ask it to ourselves.
Should we approach the UNHCR, democratic governments and friendly politicians for help? Yes, we can always ask them for help but we cannot expect them to produce a viable solution. Given the complexities and protracted nature of any refugee crises, no sane politician will dare taking the risk nor spending time on an issue that isn't likely to have produce visible outcome.
Again, we can look for help from non-government organizations, such as human rights/humanitarian support groups. To my experience, they do tend to help and are continuing to support the refugees. Their professional and valuable input, however, are always depend upon their financial backers and also public political support. With the protracted life of refugee crisis, the NGO supports would also come and go. Therefore, we cannot always count on them to produce any viable solutions.
The proper solution for those refugees, therefore, is a task that has been left to the Rohingya and Burmese exiles. Some outside observers are saying that these exiles have "no-active-following" and thus we are prone to be being counted as the "irrelevants". In fact, if you are to present an item to the people in power and authority, they will first ask you for your "credentials" or whether you have the backing of "accredited organisation". There then, you will be ridiculed, ignored and be-littled as you promote your good intention and a well thought-out agenda for refugees.
Undaunted, the grassroot exiles must be persistent in seeking solution for the unfortunate refugees and keep raising their voices. At the grassroots level, we are always lacking necessary resources and time, and we will not always have the answers. But, remember, our knowledge and experience as the exiles can atleast guide those refugees to proper safety. We must be united in call for action on refugees.
COST OF INACTION
Taken all indicaters, the UNHCR will exercise a cesation clause on Burmese refugees soon after 2015 election. If those refugees remaining in the camps are not being cleared by that time, that will cause alot of trouble for all. We can look as examples on this situation of present and past. When UNHCR withdrew its protection on SriLankan asylum seekers, they still remained on the Indian soil and, recently, the refugees were taking boats to reach to Australia. When UNHCR withdrew protection on Vietnamese and Cambodian asylum seekers, they begun taking boats to reach to Australia. Our inaction to find a proper solution today will cost the Rohingya refugees more pain, heartache and, most importantly, lives lost at sea in the future.
To all my good friends, it is time to pull our thoughts, time, resources and action to focus finding solution for those Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and, also the stateless Rohingya people in Burma.
U Ne Oo.