“Refugees are people who have fled war, violence, conflict or persecution and have crossed an international border to find safety in another country” (UNHCR). Below some starking numbers on Myanmar
If you are the “receiving country”, before arguing whether it’s right to accept refugees or not, please remember that nobody likes to leave his home, and that sending someone back to a conflict zone is siding with criminals
To be a refugee, means to leave your own house and to risk being separated from your family. Many die trying to escape or lose sight of their loved ones and will never know if they are still alive or not. Many become victims of criminal organizations. If you survive the peril journey, refugees camps resemble open air prisons in which people barely survive, with no chance to build any future outside, with no access to proper education or healthcare, often exposed to criminal gangs and frequent fires. Refugees have their human rights suspended indefinitely, often until death. Few lucky ones receive asylum and resettle. They may still experience trauma, racism and all the difficulties of living far from home.
If you are in the country refugees are escaping from, and your first/second/third reaction in front of such tragedy is to go check history books for reasons why those people don’t belong to your land, or to look for controversial news that justify violence against thousands of innocents, here are some advices:
1. If when speaking about Rohingya people you feel the need to engage in any discussion about history and migrations, read what human rights are first. Human Rights are universal and are above anything else. Ignoring them is simply inhumane. It’s like explaining to your neighbour about fire prevention, while his house is burning. And no, he didn’t burn it himself.
2. Borders, ethnicities, citizenship, religion are man-made, arbitrary and non-permanent concepts. Attachment to them only leads to nationalism and racism. Most Buddhists should be familiar with Anatta and Anicca, there is no “fixed nature”
3. Feel the need to justify why some people belong to a country, and some not? Well, we may all come from Africa, so we are pretty much all immigrants. Welcome to the club. Feel the need to go back to your real country now?
4. You believe in things such as Race and ethnicity? Man-made concept too. According to recent studies, there is no race, let alone a pure one.
5. All of us are a mix of different genes that reflect an ever changing situation. Communities are not homogenous and fixed, and they are not stationary. We may perceive them as “still” during the few decades of our lifetime, but that’s nothing compared to the history of mankind. Resisting change is simply resisting nature
6. Little bonus for the tibeto burmans die-hards: Bamar are a little bit bengali.
7. I am speaking about Rohingya here, but all the above is true for the many other people who suffer and have to flee Myanmar. This has been happening for decades.
8. Finally: you still are not convinced, and you think refugees should remain refugees and it’s not your problem? Bad news: your soul might be closer to Min Aung Hlaing’s more than you think. And the continuous attempts to justify or diminish this humanitarian crisis is ridiculous. Good news: people can change. Be human first