(P56) Rohingya Refugees from Myanmar: New Perspectives on Identity and Belonging
Wed 11:00-12:30 K14 | 1.07
- Ishrat Hossain University of Oxford
- Ashraful Azad UNSW Sydney
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Biometric Bordering: Irregular Movements of Rohingya and the Rise of State-Humanitarian Border
Ashraful Azad UNSW Sydney
The movements of Rohingya are restricted in Myanmar. As refugees in Bangladesh, they are also restricted to stay within camp boundary. Despite the restrictions, many Rohingya were able to cross internal and international boundaries using various strategies. A significant number of Rohingya travelled overseas, mainly to Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, with fraudulently obtained Bangladeshi passports. Many Rohingya also became integrated in Bangladesh by acquiring citizenship papers with the assistance of corrupt officials and brokers. Bangladeshi authorities have employed various mechanisms such as check posts, designation of ‘special areas’ and increased surveillance in updating voter list/National Identity and issuing of passports, and restriction of marriage between Rohingya and Bangladeshi to obstruct Rohingya acquiring Bangladeshi documents and travel in unauthorised ways. While such measures are effective to some extent, this paper argues, the inclusion of refugees in the biometric database might become the most effective border for the Rohingya for irregular inclusion and international movement. As the Bangladesh government, with funding and technical support of UN organisations, completed biometric registration of refugees in the camps; their access to Bangladeshi documents would be severely curtailed.
Based on extensive fieldwork with the Rohingya refugees, government officials and humanitarian professionals, this paper explores internal bordering practices and digital identification of refugees and its impact on their ability to travel defying legal and bureaucratic restrictions. This research is part of my PhD project which investigates the agency of Rohingya refugees in unauthorised movements and access to documents between Myanmar, Bangladesh and Malaysia.
Exporting exclusion: Myanmar’s Rohingya genocide as an ethnonationalist model
Ronan Lee Queen Mary University of London
India’s Citizenship Amendment Act was proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) administration as a means of providing a pathway to citizenship for members of certain religious groups who might have entered India illegally from three neighbouring Muslim-majority countries, but Muslim migrants were not included. This sparked fears among India’s Muslim community that legal changes were designed to exclude them and formed part of a longer-term strategy by Modi’s government to enact policies to remake India as a primarily Hindu nation. Lessons from India’s neighbour Myanmar strongly indicate that these fears are far from unfounded. This paper explains how post-1962 Myanmar and contemporary India exhibit similar ethnonationalist characteristics and tendencies. Mapping processes of exclusion within Myanmar and identifying similarities with policy approaches adopted in contemporary India, it argues there are worrying parallels between Modi’s political rhetoric and policy approach towards the Muslim population and those of the Myanmar authorities towards the Rohingya Muslim population over the course of the last six decades. The Muslim Rohingya’s experience of exclusion should stand as a stark warning to Muslims in neighbouring India that exclusionary political rhetoric and incremental rights erosions can easily compound over time leaving previously well integrated communities excluded from the political mainstream and from access to previously held rights excluding previously integrated communities from the political mainstream, and ultimately leaving them collectively vulnerable to crimes including apartheid, forced deportation, and genocide.
“I Had No Will to Live”: Violence, Gender, and Subjectivity Among Rohingya Refugee Women
Farhana Rahman Harvard University Asia Center
Until recently, Rohingyas making the perilous trek by boat and foot across the border into Bangladesh were predominantly male, as they were not only denied citizenship and legal rights in Myanmar but they also lacked economic opportunities within the country to support their families and communities. The 2017 attacks in Rakhine state, however, resulted in a drastic increase of women and girls undertaking these dangerous journeys to escape intense violence – including mass sexual violence – targeted against the Rohingya minority. The migration journeys of these women entailed not only violence and hardship, but also regular incidents of exploitation, including trafficking, rape, and forced marriage. Based on feminist ethnographic research, this paper traces Rohingya women’s lived experiences of violence and conflict during and after forced migration on their everyday lives and subjectivities in the squalid camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. It shines a nuanced lens on the gendered impacts of forced migration, and the ways in which Rohingya women learn to negotiate and navigate within and against this precarious environment by employing strategies of survival. Rohingya refugee women’s narratives thus reveal the construction of new gendered identities in displacement, and evidence women’s incredible resilience in spite of profound trauma and suffering.
Impact of refugee influx on the ethnic relations of host countries: Evidence from Rohingya Crisis
Ishrat Hossain University of Oxford
How does sudden large-scale refugee influx impact ethnic relations in host countries? This paper explores this question in the context of the 2017 Rohingya refugee crisis. Between August – December 2017 Bangladesh received close to one million Rohingya refugees, a Muslim ethnic minority from Myanmar who fled the country when the Burmese military launched a clearance operation. The Bangladesh-Myanmar borderland where the Rohingyas arrived is also home to Bangladesh’s small but culturally significant Buddhist minority population and has been a scene of both anti-Buddhist and anti-indigenous violence in previous decades. Thus, the refugee influx creates a ‘quasi-natural experiment’ like environment in the host country for observing responses of multiple ethnic minority groups that were directly affected by the cross-border population movement. Although the Rohingya refugee influx did not result in retaliatory communal violence against the minority population in Bangladesh, there is significant variation among the groups in threat perception about the refugees and institutional responses adopted to tackle the ensuing insecurity. By conceptualising intergroup relations as a dyad, I develop a new framework for explaining how variation in the nature of existing majority-minority ethnic relations influences the development and function of minority civic institutions and crisis response. I show that when faced with similar security risks brought on by an exogenous immigration shock, minorities that form a less conflictual dyadic relation with the majority are better equipped to withstand the threat of ethnic violence through organisational mechanisms than those with history of conflict.
Since August 2017, Bangladesh has hosted 1.1 million Rohingya refugees in the mega-camps of Cox’s bazaar along its restive borderlands with Myanmar. This mass influx has created a ‘city within a city’, profoundly impacting the lives of the local
population. For the Rohingyas in the camps, struggles for securing better living condition persist and voluntary repatriation process is still uncertain as longstanding issues of citizenship and belonging remain unresolved. With this panel, we aim to
present some of the latest research on southeast Asia’s most persecuted minority group – the Muslim Rohingyas from Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state.
As the Rohingya refugee situation enters its fourth year in a pandemic-battered world, this panel aims to bring together researchers working on different aspects of Rohingya identity and everyday living experiences, both within and beyond the
refugee camps in Bangladesh. In doing so the panel explores the ambiguities and complexities of ‘living as a Rohingya’, delving into diverse subjects ranging from gendered experience of displacement to irregular movements to impact of violence on Rohingya identity formation. The research contributions included in the panel covers multiple social sciences disciplines including law, sociology, political science and anthropology and use in-depth ethnographic research conducted among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.