Rohingya activists have urged the host countries to stop hatred against them and treat them as human beings, saying the refugees, who have fled genocidal acts in Myanmar, are now facing higher level of xenophobia amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Stating that the countries like Malaysia and Thailand denied accepting the Rohingyas who tried to reach their shores in the smugglers' boats, they said it was not their choice to take such risky journeys but grave rights violations back in Myanmar forced them to do so.
Rohingya activist Sujauddin Karimuddin from Australia said just two days back he got a call from a woman that one of her two kids in Rakhine had tuberculosis but she had no access to medical service. To go to the town, she needed $150 for a travel permit.
When she managed that, the transport provider demanded double and triple the normal fare, saying radical Buddhists could attack the car if he carried her, he said.
"You see, in the West if I have a passport, I can travel anywhere in the world. And in Rakhine, it is so difficult. That's why people take whatever means they can to escape the situation where they are denied of basic human rights," he said.
The observations came at an eSymposium on "Hunger, Exploitation, Hate Crime and Xenophobia: Rohingyas in Land and at Sea" jointly organised by the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) and Free Rohingya Coalition (FRC).
Sharifah Shakirah, director of Rohingya Women Development Network in Malaysia, said Rohigyas take perilous sea journey for a better life though they face tortures on the way and after the arrival. That only proves how dire situation they face at home.
Rohingyas, who were denied citizenship in Myanmar since 1982, faced violations of basic rights and fled atrocities to Bangladesh and other countries. They faced the most brutal crackdown in 2017 when some 750,000 Roingya fled to Bangladesh.
Speakers said with a plethora of discriminatory rules, famine like conditions prevail in northern Rakhine where Myanmar government continues to pursue its genocidal policies against the Rohingya in violation of the explicit order of the International Court of Justice to protect the Rohingya.
There are more than 1 million Rohingyas in Bangladesh, 300,000 in Saudi Arabia, 150,000 in Malaysia, 30,000 in India and tens of thousands more scattered across the world.
However, the refugee camps have very rudimentary facilities and under the Covid-19 situation available services have been drastically curtailed. Most Rohingyas in informal camps and shanties in urban settings live in crowded conditions with poor water and sanitation facilities. All these make them particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, they said.
Shakirah said hatred and xenophobia can never result in anything good, but love and solidarity can.
"We are the same human being like you and need basic rights as you enjoy. Please don't hate us. We don't want to be burden. Allow us to work, study and stand by us. We will surely return home," she said.
Free Rohingya Coalition Coordinator Nay San Lwin from Germany said the UN is failing to ensure Rohingya rights in Bangladesh. The refugees are somehow surviving, but they have limited scope for education and work.
The foreign investors in Myanmar should create pressure if Myanmar does not stop genocidal policies and practices against Rohingya in Rakhine state, he said. "Once the citizenship is guaranteed, we are repatriated to our original villages, Rohingya identity is recognized, we will definitely return to Rakhine."
RMMRU Executive Director Prof CR Abrar said any hatred and xenophobia must end, including by media, and that none should be left behind as the UN works for Sustainable Development Goals.
He also called for reparation from Myanmar to the host countries that are bearing the cost for sheltering Rohingyas and a strong global stance to make sure Myanmar enforces ICJ order to stop Rohingya genocide.