Rohingya people take refuge in a temporary shelter after their boat washed ashore on Idaman island in Indonesia's Aceh province on June 5. A total of 81 Rohingya migrants, including children, were found stranded. (Photo: AFP)
More than 700,000 Rohingya children across Asia have faced severe discrimination and denial of their most basic rights to citizenship and education, Save the Children says in a new report.
A report to mark World Refugee Day, “No Safe Haven” released on June 17, revealed Rohingya children across Myanmar, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are prevented from accessing education and legal protection, which can expose them to abuse, child labor, child marriage, trafficking and detention.
Most Rohingya children in Asia live outside their home country of Myanmar. Nearly 500,000 are living in refugee camps in Bangladesh, while many have taken refuge in neighboring countries.
Malaysia hosts more than 100,000 Rohingya refugees, around a quarter of whom are estimated to be children. Thailand and Indonesia host the smallest Rohingya populations of the five countries, with no exact estimates of the number of children.
The report said some 234,000 Rohingya children remain in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, of whom around 69,000 are confined to squalid camps. All are subject to severe restrictions on their movement. The Rohingya community in Myanmar has experienced decades of state-sponsored persecution and violence.
The report said neighboring countries often fail to act as safe havens as Rohingya refugees continue to be demonized, discriminated against and treated as criminals — locked up in immigration detention centers or left to die on boats trapped at sea for months.
Unjustly denied citizenship in Myanmar, they face discrimination and exclusion wherever they go
Hassan Noor, Asia regional director at Save the Children, said: “With the magnitude of atrocities they have faced, Rohingya children are among the most persecuted in the world, failed by both their own countries and those they have fled to.
“Unjustly denied citizenship in Myanmar, they face discrimination and exclusion wherever they go. They are denied their most basic rights — the chance to go to school, to feel safe in their own homes and to live free from discrimination and prejudice.”
Abul, now 16, left his family in Myanmar and escaped to Malaysia where he has lived for around 18 months.
He told Save the Children how he and his family were persecuted in Myanmar due to the identity of Rohingya.
“Because we are Rohingya, we were discriminated against and we weren’t allowed to go out in the evening. If we went out in the evening, the police beat us or arrested us,” he said.
He recalled how hard it was to survive in Malaysia and how difficult it was to get a job to support his mother and sisters.
“Ever since I arrived, I’ve been afraid of being arrested. I can’t go out with my friends when they call me to play because I don’t have documents here. I’m afraid of the police and of being arrested,” he said.
Myanmar does not recognize Rohingya as citizens, which complicates their asylum claims abroad and leaves children vulnerable to abuse.