I cannot begin to describe how devastating things are in the Rohingya camps. People are being shot and murdered and no one is being held responsible. Here is some good news of rare achievements celebrating hand washing day.
Name: Saifullah Shafaie
Profile: Hazara refugee from Afghanistan, living in Indonesia.
Advantages: UN-certified, good English skills, truck driver assistant, experienced chef and constructor. FULLY FUNDED.
Risk: At risk of being tortured and killed by the Taliban if returned home.
Canadian contact: Stephen Watt
Needed: A group of five friends to support him.
Saifullah and his father were arrested by the Taliban. His father sacrificed his life and helped Saifullah escape from there. He had no other option but to leave his family behind and flee to Indonesia by boat to save his life.
Since 2014, he has been living in limbo and he hopes to have a chance of living in a peaceful country where he can live with freedom. The good thing is that he has the needed funds available to be sponsored in Canada, and he is looking for a group of Canadian friends who can help him start his life again.
Taken and Tortured
Saifullah was born on January 1, 1994, in the Jaghori district of the Ghazni province in Afghanistan. His father was a truck driver, and he used to work with his father as a driver’s assistant.
The Hazara people of the region have long been targets of persecution and massacres because of their culture, religion, and love for education. Saifullah and his father used to carry goods from Ghazni to Jaghori. On August 19, 2014, they loaded the truck with school Materials like books, chairs, and tables alongside with some shop goods.
On the way to Jaghori, they were incepted by members of the Taliban in the place called Qala-e-Khoshk. Members of the Taliban tied their hands, blindfolded and took them to an unknown place.
“When they uncovered my eyes, I found myself in an old yard. Then they started investigating and beating me and my father badly.”
After searching their truck, the Taliban found a document that Saifullah’s father had hidden, and Saifullah had no idea about that document. Saifullah and his father were then put in a room and were told that members of the Taliban would wait for their Mawlawi (leader) to come and decide the punishment.
It was midnight on August 20, when Saifullah’s father awoke him and told him to escape through the small window that was towards the yard. His father told him not to follow him while running away from there. After jumping outside through the window Saifullah started running away.
“I suddenly heard gunshots which scared me more and I kept running. Later on, I waited for my father but he did not come.”
Since Saifullah was at risk of being captured again and killed, he continued his way until he arrived on the highway. He stopped a car and shared his story with the driver who was a Hazara. The driver drove Saifullah to Kabul and took him to a Hazargi hotel names Band Amir Hotel. He took the hotel owner’s phone and contacted his mother.
“My mother was crying and I told her that I did not know where my father was.”
Journey to Indonesia
On August 21, 2014, Saifullah contacted his mother, and she told him not to return. She also told him that she would send his uncle to help him find a way to escape from Afghanistan immediately. Since the Taliban knew everything about Saifullah, they could easily find and kill him in Afghanistan. After his uncle arranged for a people smuggler, Saifullah flew from Kabul to New Delhi, India on August 30, 2014. From there, he went to Malaysia by plane and then on to Pekanbaru, Indonesia on September 6, 2014.
On September 8, 2014, he was brought to Jakarta by car, and he registered himself with the UNHCR on September 13, 2014. With no right to work or way to support himself, he went to Balikpapan Immigration Centre to ask for assistance, and on October 28, 2014, he was transferred to a detention centre there.
While living in the detention center, he was busy learning the English language, doing exercise and playing football to keep himself healthy and positive.
Fortunately, on February 28, 2018, he was released from the detention centre and transferred to a community house in Tanjung Pinang.
As a refugee, Saifullah cannot get proper education, work, drive and even open a bank account. He has been living in uncertainty since 2014, and he is trying to get himself out of this uncertainty to live a normal life. There is no option of returning to Afghanistan either since the Hazara people are not safe there. The only way for him is to resettle in a safe country like Canada where he can start his life again, He says:
“I hope to start my second inning of life somewhere I can breathe with freedom, justice and basic human rights. I hope that kind Canadian citizens will help me start my life again in Canada.”
Since he is officially certified as a refugee by the UNHCR – unlike the vast majority of the world’s refugees – he qualifies for Canada’s private sponsorship program. Another good thing about Saifullah is that he is FULLY FUNDED.
If you would like to sponsor him – or if you’re just interested in helping to bring him here – please contact his friend Stephen Watt on Facebook.
You can reach out to Saifullah directly on Facebook – or through WhatsApp: +62 831-8430-8504.
Reach out and discover how wonderful it is to privately sponsor a good person to start a new life – with your help – in Canada!
Thank you for your support. And help spread the word by sharing this post!
This is just so beautiful. What a wonderful gift I have received. Thank you children. Thank you teacher. (From an orphanage in Uganda).
The Rohingya people are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group who predominantly follow Islam They come from the Rakhine State in Myanmar (previously known as Burma). In 2017, an estimated 1.4 million Rohingya lived in Myanmar and over 740,000 fled to Bangladesh due to persecution and genocide. Under the 1982 Myanmar legislation the Rohingya are denied citizenship. Restrictions were also were put on freedom of movement, including access to state education and civil service jobs. The legal conditions faced by the Rohingya in Myanmar have been compared to apartheid. The most recent mass displacement of Rohingya in 2017 led the International Criminal Court investigating crimes against humanity, and led to the International Court of Justice investigating genocide.
Bringing an end to refugee detention.
Every year the UNHCR hold a day of celebration called World Refugee Day. Every celebration is given a title. In 2021 the celebration was titled, “Together we, heal, learn and shine.” To celebrate the day the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh had a visit from the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Mr. Tahsan Khan who was there to open an intensive care unit and diagnostic services at the Sadar District Hospital, which was created with UNHCR funds. These services are undoubtedly needed, but a problem arises when International AID is provided to counties in exchange for temporary refuge because there is no incentive towards refugee resettlement. Indeed, the arrangement makes refugees the collateral for any future material developments, i.e., progress. As a consequence, some refugees have been in captivity for more than 30 years and their collateral status has simply grown and become more valuable for building a nation’s infrastructure. The bigger the camp, the more need for outside services. The regime is tantamount to human trafficking and slavery. Slavery, because the refugees have to maintain their own infrastructure within the camp.
The theme of the 2021 World Refugee Day was “together we heal, learn and shine”, it was a huge ask in an environment where people have a day-by-day struggle to survive. The aim to “heal, learn and shine” is all well and good, but we need to ask whose interests are really being served? In order to maintain this arrangement, the camp has to grow, this means more refugees are needed. More refugees will always be needed in order to secure funds for more outside infrastructure… This is how it works! It is a trade-off that most people appear to be happy with, except for the fact that refugees are never going to escape this system. Refugees will dwindle out and more will replace them. Refugees will never be truly free to build their own lives under this system.
In 2022, once again, another Refugee Day took place. This time the public are asked to engage with Refugee Day and its new aspirations. We are asked to remember what has been achieved. What has been achieved? We can reflect of the fact that nothing has changed, refugees are still imprisoned in outrageous conditions. The controls in camps have tightened and the environment has become ever-more dangerous. The mental health of residents has deteriorated. Many health services are not free and most are not afordable. What has changed? No one can leave the camp without a pass. Close associations are watched by guards. Residents have to rely on charities for books and learning. The guards in their posts have nice bright uniforms and up-to-date weaponry while people are dying of treatable diseases and children risk injury from a lack of basic checks for health and safety. In 2022 a four-year-old child was buried alive under a landslide. Just a few weeks later two more children were buried alive during flooding. Remarkably, some people do “shine” because they still have faith in humanity and they are able to develop an extraordinary power of will. However, no one should have to live like this, it is systemic torture and against International Law. Free refugees!
Refugee camps are a system of segregation, This is apartheid. No one in a refugee camp is permitted to move beyond the barbed wire fencing. Residents are faced with a life of entrapment as is revealed in the images contained in this book. There are smiles and tears in the images of residents, but none can fully appreciate the day-by-day hardship that can easily fall to despair. As a consequence, the camp has given rise to a host of very good photographers. The camera captures the life inside because it is the only way daily life can be revealed to the outside world. What is shown will shock those who care about people and in particular those who care about Human Rights. The pictures of children are often painful. Yet, at the same time, they will hopefully heighten the sensitivities to the needs of these prisoners. No one can fail to be moved by the pictures of people clinging to the wire fences. We are reminded of animals caged in zoos or perhaps a mass social experiment that has gone horribly wrong.
Some of the images show people trying to hurry passed guards for fear of being interrogated. Some are assaulted, beaten. The fear is written of the faces on innocent bystanders who can neither do or say anything to stop the brutality of their friends. The outcome is one of misery, uncertainty and an inevitable high rate of mental health issues and suicides.
The Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar is mostly inhabited by Rohingya refugees who fled from ethnic cleansing, genocide and religious persecution in Myanmar. Two years ago, more than 730,000, mainly Muslim Rohingya escaped into neighbouring Bangladesh to avoid persecution in Myanmar. They arrived in Kutupalong where they joined 250,000 Rohingya who were already resident in the camp. In 2019 Myanmar agreed to allow 3,450 refugees to return to their homeland, but many refugees feared the ongoing violence and refused to go back. Today, refugees at Kutupalong are in constant fear of being sent back to their homeland to face more violence, but at the same time, they want to go back and are demanding that the international community protect them. The fact remains, these residents should have been resettled in countries where they could start a proper life and expect a good future. Instead, within the camp, conditions are also becoming more violent. Refugees are facing an ever-more authoritarian regime and difficulties in meeting basic needs. This is resulting in serious mental health problems in some cases it is resulting in suicides.
Suicide and associated behaviours have a profound impact on individuals, families and communities. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 800,000 individuals die by suicide each year – the equivalent to one person every 40 seconds. Globally, the death by suicide rate is estimated to be approximately 11.05 deaths per 100,000 people. It is the second leading cause of death worldwide for young people aged 15‐29. . (Reuters Foundation Wednesday, 21 August 2019).
There are a limited number of studies that have examined suicide and related behaviours among displaced populations. A review of suicide in refugee populations found suicide rates to range from 3.4% to 34% of recorded deaths. Studies done with refugee populations resettled in high income countries have shown increased risk of suicidal behaviours likely due to a combination of socioeconomic disadvantage, exposure to potentially traumatic events, the burden of mental disorders and lack of appropriate care. The disparity between rich and poor increases the likelihood of suicides.
Untreated health problems get transferred to wherever the sufferer goes. Those refugees who are fortunate enough to be resettled abroad incur ongoing mental difficulties. Affluent countries have an average suicide rate of 14.12 per 100,000, while the rate for low‐ and middle‐Income countries have an average suicide rate of 11.09 per 100,000 people. It is harder for refugees who come from poorer countries to assimilate in fast capitalist societies.
As the vast majority of the world’s population live in low -middle incomes countries, suicides in these countries represent 75% of suicide deaths worldwide. The number of refugees and others forcibly displaced worldwide is growing with a record high of 84.4 million people and many suffering mental health problems. With these figures the suicide rate is bound to rise inside and outside the walls of refugee camps.
Dr Chris James. Independent Human Rights Advocate.
My submission addresses point No. 1
How can international actors improve the response to the crisis in Myanmar?
I am an independent Human Rights Advocate qualified in International and Community Development, Psychoanalysis and Communications. I am currently living in Victoria, Australia and working online with the Rohingya residents at the Kutupalong, Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. My submission is focussed on the urgent need to resettle the Rohingya residents (Muslims and Christians) due to the dangerous, unsanitary and inhumane conditions in the Bangladesh camps. I ask the committee to consider the lack of amenities as unacceptable as are and the length of stays in the Bangladesh facility, which for some residents exceeds more than thirty years. I also request that priority be given to resettlement back to the homeland or to another safe place in accordance with the individual wishes of the refugees.
Children have been born and have grown-up in the Bangladesh camps. They know nothing else and this makes it very difficult to adjust to a world beyond confinement. Notwithstanding, the residents in the camps have maintained a strong connection to the Myanmar homeland, which has been passed on to their children.
In the Rohingya camps of Cox’s Bazar, there are almost one million people in an area of just 13 square kilometres. 34 camps are crammed into this space. The population density ranges between 40,000 to 70,000 people per square kilometre, which is nine times the national average of Bangladesh.[i] Currently, a large section of the camp has become flooded due to heavy rains and this is a recuring problem. Added to this, much of the area is scattered with hills containing unstable soils that are very prone to land-slides. Three small children have already been buried alive this year (2022). Last year (2021) the floods claimed 11 Rohingya lives, including four children and 24 lives were lost to landslides. Also, last year more than 4,000 shelters were destroyed. This came on top of a deadly fire that spread through part of the camp. Shelters are made of thin bamboo sticks and plastic sheets, which do not withstand the climatic conditions and they are very prone to fires. Many shelters are sitting in water contaminated with sewage as the toilets are wells that overflow and there is no means of dealing with toxic wastes. Debris, including poisons, cover vast areas of the landscape and there is no means of safe disposal. With groups of hundreds of people sharing such a small space, including one toilet per group, the contamination of soils and buildings is significant and it poses ongoing health problems, especially for small children. Added to this, there is a clean water crisis. In the heat of summer, drinking water is scarce. Sickness is rife and medical facilities are inadequate. Many of the children are severely undernourished and in need of schooling. The schools have been closed due to a lack of books, teachers and proper facilities. There is no freedom of movement, written permission has to be given before anyone can leave or enter the camp. Armed guards patrol the perimeters and the police who wander the grounds are accused of harassing people with racist remarks and intimidation. With numerous other restrictions, too many to mention, it would be fair to say the facility is more like a prison than a place of refuge. It is a sad indictment of the way vulnerable people are treated.
Of late, there has been a rapid deterioration of conditions in the refugee camps and hope for a normal life is waning. This has led to a lot of hostility. The establishment of local gangs has vastly increased the level of violence. It has been reported that these groups are heavily involved in human and drug trafficking as well as arms smuggling. Reports between August 2017 and 2020 indicate there have been at least 61 killings, 35 incidents of rape and 16 kidnappings. More than 731 First Information Report (FIRs) were filed against the Rohingya during this period, which led to the imprisonment of more than 600 Rohingya.[ii] Daily reports of violence are now the norm and the environment is extremely tense and frightening. Clearly, the lack of repatriations, poor living conditions and a lack of services have contributed to this scenario, whereby many innocent families no longer feel safe in their shelters. Importantly, people cannot hide behind locked-doors, everything is open to what is happening and many young people are quickly learning how to become criminals.
Most shelters have been standing for many years and they are falling into complete dereliction. The reality is, donor funds are dwindling and interest in the plight of refugees does not bode well with mainstream populations who are influenced by the political discourse that states ‘groups of refugees might harbour terrorists’. Sadly, since 9/11 and the terrorist attacks on the United States World Trade Centre, sympathy for refugees has diminished greatly due to fears of terrorism. As we have seen in the western media, when refugees arrive on shores in large numbers, they spark political controversy. [iii] Clearly, something needs to be done to change public opinion towards refugees who need to be supported in their resettlement and integration within the global communities. Moreover, when dealing with refugees we must also keep in mind that we are dealing with highly traumatised people.
The way refugees are processed and housed has to change.
- Governments, particularly, western governments, must take on more responsibility for refugees, even if it means providing financial incentives.
- Family re-unifications should be a priority and not prone to a lot of bureaucratic ‘red tape’. Family supports can ease many of the integration problems.
- Welcoming committees in towns have been a great asset in helping refugees to settle.
- What refugees need most is ‘cash’, when people have ‘cash’ they spend it and for every dollar spent more is accrued in the national economies. Refugees with ‘cash’ are an asset, not a burden.
- Refugees must be allowed freedom to work.
- Governments must provide education and training.
- Refugees should be allowed tax concessions to allow them to become established.
- Refugees must be housed within the community, with subsidised housing if there is a need.
- Support services need to be improved with specialised professionals.
(10) Schools in host counties need to include lessons on basic Human Rights and the plight of refugees.
(11) We need to deal with racism through education and integration. (Many organisations have used storytelling).
(12) We need to abolish refugee camps in favour of complete social integration and we need to avoid the establishment of ghettos.
For the Rohingya the willingness to return to what might be a very insecure homeland is largely due to the lack of opportunity for refugees to exercise any kind of normal life within the camps. Segregation is a very negative way of dealing with social issues and it quickly morphs into apartheid.
At the time of the 2017 crisis, the Australian Government’s principal response to the crisis has been to pledge humanitarian support for affected populations in Myanmar and Bangladesh. As at 1 June 2018, the Government had committed $51.5 million in assistance to help address the humanitarian needs of Rohingya and affected communities in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Most of this aid, around $44 million; has been directed to the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar in eastern Bangladesh.[iv] To date, there are only 3,000 Rohingya in Australia.[v] To this end, Australia and others clearly use funds to offload the problem onto the poorest nations and this has to cease. Further, many refugees who cannot be offloaded elsewhere get processed offshore and locked-up. In Australia, asylum seekers are not considered to be legitimate refugees and other nations are following this lead. With this in mind, the 1951 Refugee Convention has to be strengthened.
More assistance from the international community might change the way refugees are processed. For example, although the UNHCR refers refugees for resettlement the ultimate decision to grant a visa rests with the country’s Immigration Department. Those who are not fully subsidised have to find a huge amount of money to keep themselves for two years in case they cannot work, the sum is roughly $17,000. For most refugees, raising this amount is an impossible task.
If the Rohingya wish to go to western nations then western governments must be encouraged to take them. Refugees must be permitted to work and support themselves and lead a normal life. The number of refugees Australia accepts has dropped in recent years. Australia accepted and resettled 12,706 refugees in 2018.[vi] According to the Red Cross, that figure jumped to 18,200 in 2019. During the Morrison Government between 2020-2021 the number fell to 4,558 refugees.[vii] The number of refugees Australia has been willing to take pales against other significantly poor nations.
Repatriation is the ideal. However, if the Rohingya are repatriated, some form of satisfactory policing has to occur and the Human Rights of the Rohingya people need to be restored, including the right to citizenship. What is need here is choice. Refugees must have the right to choose where they wish to be settled. While many refugees will welcome repatriation, this action should not be the only option.
Dr Chris James
12th July 2022.
[i] https://independentaustralia.net/life/life-display/fire-floods-and-felonies-relocation-the-only-option-for-rohingya,15463 Retrieved 5th July 2022.
[iii] Conor Friedersdorf Friedersdorf in the The Atlantic: June 12 2019. Retrieved 27th June. 2022.
[iv] Australia Parliament House (https://www.aph.gov.au/About_ Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1718/Quick_Guides/Rohingya ).Retrieved 5th July 2022.
[v] (https://www.sbs.com.au › feature › faces-rohingya).
[vi] (Settlement Services International. https://www.ssi.org.au/faqs/refugee-faqs/141-how-many-refugees-does-australia-settle-each-year Retrieved 20th June 2022).
[vii] (The World Health Organisation. https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/10-things-to-know-about-the-health-of-refugees-and-migrants Retrieved 25th June 2022.)