The Rohingya People

Who are the Rohingya?

Rohingya are the indigenous ethnic minority of Burma (Myanmar) mainly residing in Arakan (Rakhine) state. The descendants of the ancient inhabitants of Arakan, genealogically linked up with people of Dannavati, Vesali and Chandra to Indo-Arian. Four million Rohingya population are estimated around the world from which more than 2.5 million are forced to flee and live in diaspora mainly in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, India, Thailand, Indonesia and others. Rohingya were listed as ethnic group and enjoyed full right of citizenship of Burma even after the independence in 1948 from Britain. Burmese Military government introduced a new law in 1982 which delisted Rohingya from ethnic group and revoked their citizenship. Rohingya are considered the most persecuted minority in the world. They are made stateless in their own ancestral land, denied citizenship and subjected to systematic persecution for decades.

Why do the Rohingya need to be registered?

Having no nationality, many Rohingya cannot enjoy the rights most of us take for granted – legally they don’t exist. As a result, the Rohingya face numerous legal, financial and social restrictions.

How many Rohingya are there, and where do they live?

There are more than 3.5 million stateless Rohingya worldwide, with less than 1 million still residing in Rakhine state. Some of the countries hosting the largest populations of Rohingya are Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia.

How do you make sure someone is authentically registered as a Rohingya?

A vital part of being recognised as a refugee, and more specifically, a Rohingya, is the assessment and verification process. Our unique multi layered verification methodology is broken down into a series of interviews and assessments that rigorously test on 5 areas: Geographical, Social, Language, Culture, and Occupational.

How big is the Rohingya diaspora?

For over 30 years, Rohingya have lived in a limbo of statelessness. Driven out of their ancestral land, living largely undocumented in different countries across the world and denied even basic rights that people take for granted, the struggles the Rohingya diaspora face are severe. As a result of their stateless condition, the 3.5 million Rohingya live as an invisible people on the margins, and are vulnerable to destitution, human trafficking, and other maladies.

The Stateless

Who are stateless people?

As defined by Article 1 of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, a “stateless person” is someone who is not classified as a national by any state under its law. While many stateless individuals are considered refugees, it is not a necessary condition for statelessness. In fact, only a minor portion of stateless people are refugees. Statelessness can apply to individuals in both migration and non-migration situations. A person who has never crossed international borders may still be identified as stateless depending on his or her status.

What problems do stateless people face?

The primary challenges faced by stateless individuals all relate to lack of recognized identification. Many basic human rights taken for granted in most states depend to a large degree on the availability of nationality by the individual. Government and private services require identification such as a passport or national ID card as a norm before allowing access. The ability to open a bank account, visit a health clinic or travel freely within the country are thus denied or made increasingly difficult for stateless individuals such as the Rohingya. As per the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusions’ report The World Stateless released in 2014, “The harsh reality for many stateless persons is a story of lack of opportunity, of lack of protection and of lack of participation.”

What is the difference between statelessness and being a refugee?

Statelessness can occur for several reasons, including discrimination against particular ethnic or religious groups, or on the basis of gender; the emergence of new States and transfers of territory between existing States; and gaps in nationality laws. Whatever the cause, statelessness has serious consequences for people in almost every country and in all regions of the world. A refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. Often these terms are conflated and indeed there are many individuals who are both stateless and a refugee. But the concepts are distinct. Not all Rohingya are refugees. Not all Rohingya (but nearly all) are stateless.