New Delhi, India. Hanging on in the Indian capital is difficult for Muslim Rohingya refugees from Burma, but there is no other choice as NGOs and aid organizations criticize the Myanmar government, but do little to resolve the crisis itself.
In one refugee housing area, home to about 50 Rohingya refugee families, there are just two water pumps and a couple toilets for all to share. Human and animal waste litter the alleyways, drawing armies of flies and mosquitoes in the steaming Delhi summers when temperatures regularly top 110 degrees.
The United Nations refugee agency is who helps the Rohingya, having fled government-backed persecution in their home country of Myanmar. The UNHCR helps the refugees gain access to public education and health facilities in India.
Indian media reports suggest the government was working on a plan to try to arrest and deport the Rohingya refugees on the grounds they were illegal immigrants. Some officials within the Indian security and intelligence agencies believe the Rohinya are prone to radicalization by Muslim extremist groups.
A senior UNHCR official in India states it is “considered part of customary international law, binding on all states” that registered refugees cannot be sent back to their home countries if they could be subjected to persecution.
Myanmar’s leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi spent decades under house arrest in Myanmar as an outspoken critic of the country’s ruling military junta. Significant reforms, much lauded by the West, saw her released in 2015 and her political party won huge support in elections that year. Her rise to power, after years as an outspoken but imprisoned advocate for democracy, brought new hope that the contentious issue of the Rohingya might finally be addressed.
In a recent interview, however, Suu Kyi denied that her country’s Rohingya Muslim minority is deliberately targeted. The UN is not so generous, considering the label genocide for her lack of action in helping her own citizens.”Ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression” she said, suggesting violence in the western Rakhine state also included, “Muslims killings Muslims.”