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Finding the humanity


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Thirty-one Rohingya Muslim refugees have unwittingly become the epicentre of controversy after a group of hardline nationalists including Buddhist monks attacked a detention centre that they had made their temporary home after a court order handed them over to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).    

The refugees, who were arrested in April along with two suspected Indian traffickers in a boat in Sri Lankan seas, were taken into protective custody and then to a detention centre outside Colombo. This detention centre was then attacked by an extremist group claiming the refugees were “terrorists.” Such a charge is wrong to the point of ludicrousness and they were in Sri Lanka with the knowledge and contest of the Sri Lankan Government. 

The Rohingya group fled Myanmar in 2012 and lived in India as refugees for nearly five years before trying to migrate illegally, according to reports. These are people who have already lost their homes and their lives and yet they were not allowed to remain peacefully by an organisation with twisted interests. 

It is truly disappointing that a country which has known war and has sent thousands of their own citizens as refugees to neighbouring countries could not find a vestige of empathy for these people. It is high time that Buddhism, a religion that preaches tolerance, humanity and charity, should be used as an excuse by elements that will never stand for the best interests of Sri Lanka or its people. 

Too long Sri Lankan authorities have stood by without taking full action against such organisations. This has led to perceived impunity and it is time they are dealt with by the strictest legal provisions and action is taken to ensure these sorts of demonstrations are never allowed again.   

Tens of thousands Muslim Rohingya have fled mostly Buddhist Myanmar since 2012. Tension between majority Buddhists and Rohingya, most of whom are denied citizenship, has simmered for decades in Rakhine, but it has exploded several times over the past few years, as old enmities, and Buddhist nationalism, surfaced with the end of decades of harsh military rule.

*About 480,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh since October, straining relations between the two neighbours who each see the stateless Muslim minority as the other nation’s problem.

Often they have no choice but to leave their homes, and they must have unhindered access to basic human rights, in particular the right to protection and healthcare.

Behind every statistic, there is a story – of a mother seeking safety and security for her children, a boy forced to be a man and seek work to support his ailing parents, a girl running from rape and abuse by armed combatants, a father seeking a safe and dignified life for his family, a child who wants to be able to play and go to school. Basic needs that are often taken for granted. The dangerous journey they undertake to a better life costs more than anyone of us can afford. 

Refugees should receive humane and fair treatment. Their dignity, human rights, safety and wellbeing must be protected, regardless of where they’re coming from or where they’re going.

*Editor's Note: It was previously mentioned in this article that 69,000 Rohingyas had fled to Bangladesh since October, however, it has now been amended to 480,000 as per the latest figures.


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