Dr. Syed Zafar Mahmood: The New York Declaration on Refugees & Migrants was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly on 19 Sept 2016. From India it was attended by VK Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs. Through this Declaration the world, in one voice, expressed the joint political will of all the 193 member states of UN General Assembly, who made a historic commitment to more equitably share responsibility for the world’s refugees and migrants. They made a determination, inter alia, to protect the human rights of all refugees and migrants – regardless of status, to ensure education for all refugee and migrant children within a few months of their arrival and to support the countries rescuing, receiving and hosting large numbers of refugees and migrants.
2. That way a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) was adopted pleading to help the refugees to thrive, not just survive, thus reducing the risk of protracted stays and lessen the refugees’ dependence on humanitarian aid.
3. This Framework reaffirms that the human conscience is made by God and that’s why, irrespective of noises in some nation states driven by short term political axes to grind, the concern for human interests have broadly prevailed. India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj did pack off to Bangladesh a plane load of materials to address part of the basic necessities of Rohingya lives even though her party has taken a patently anti-Rohingya stand on the ab initio flimsy ground that all Rohingyas have potential to be terrorists.
4. On the other hand, implementing the CRRF spirit in its national laws, Djibouti passed a new national refugee law in January 2017 enabling its government to issue for the refugees official identification documentation, giving them better access to education and health services, right to work, access the justice system, quality education and the right to naturalization. In Ethiopia, the refugee children will now be issued birth certificates.
5. The geopolitical secret of the Rakhine state of Myanmar is by now open in the public realm. It is virtually ‘Asia’s ocean frontier’, the country is flanked by China and India with their respective long & short term interests deeply embedded in the Burmese topography and whereabouts.
6. In India, these days in TV debates, some persons ask as to why Muslim countries are not hosting the Rohingya Refugees. In this regard the following table is worth noticing:
It shows that many Muslim countries are discharging much more than their proportionate responsibility, to help out the Rohingyas.
7. Talking of the world’s best practices in treating the Refugees, it’s satisfying to know that Uganda is giving them even land to build home and to cultivate. The World Bank has granted US$2bn under IDA-18 for providing funds for developmental activities to the low income ‘refugee hosting countries’.
8. The European International Development Cooperation (DEVCO) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) are giving increasing support to the refugee hosting countries so that they can further include refugees in national development plans.
9. The UNGA has given a call for bringing together the UNHCR, governments, NGOs and the private sector and, crucially, the refugees themselves, to help them become self-reliant and contribute to their host communities’ development.
10. In India, some Rohingya Refugees have petitioned the Supreme Court asking for equal treatment like other and larger refugee communities like from Tibet and Sri Lanka. They say that if any person is found to be indulging in any anti-national activities, in that case, the law should take its course to hand out harsh punishment; but, for one black sheep the entire group should not be herded back into the jaws of Burmese anti-Rohingya atrocities that are well known to the world threatening the Rohingya lives and freedom.
11. India’s National Commission of Human Rights has also put on notice the ministry of home affairs and may intervene in the ongoing Supreme Court case in defense of Rohingyas. The UN Human Rights Commission too has appealed to India to respect the international law of non-refoulement.
12. In any case, so far, the Government of Myanmar has not announced any special concession exclusively favoring India saying that would they accept back the Rohingyas (currently in India) as Myanmarese citizens. Yet, it goes without saying, while living here in India, all the Refugees are bound to fully obey and respect the Indian law and our cultural traditions.
Writer is President of Zakat Foundaion of India