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World Refugee Day: Every minute, 20 people flee terror and persecution

  • Published at 01:02 am June 20th, 2019

Around 10 million Bangali refugees entered India in the early months of the Liberation War

Right after the curfew was lifted past midnight, on April 1, 1971, 20-year-old Aroma Dutta, with her mother Pratiti Devi and autistic brother Rahul, found herself crossing the Gomti river towards safety in India. 

That was the week Operation Searchlight began, when the Pakistani forces began their genocidal campaign on pro-liberation supporters and intellectuals and Aroma and her family joined hundreds to seek refuge from the impending war. 

Around 10 million Bangali refugees entered India in the early months of the Liberation War.

Such conflict sees an influx of refugees crossing borders where the UN estimates every minute, 20 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution, or terror.

47 years later, UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report—released on June 19, 2018—shows that 68.5 million people around the world were forcibly displaced at the end of 2017.

World refugee day is celebrated every year on June 20 to support millions of families all over the world who have lost their homes and dear ones because of violence or war. The day was established by the General Assembly of United Nations for refugees, to honor them for their courage in facing lots of problems after losing their homes due to conflict or violence and their contributions to their communities. 

World refugee day celebration provides an opportunity to all to help refugees worldwide to rebuild their  lives through lots of related activities.

Mohammad Hossain, was forcefully displaced to Bangladesh in August 27, 2017, when the Myanmar Army started killing Rohingyas. He has since been living in Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar. 

At the D4 block of the camp, Hossain lives in a small hut with his wife and two children. 

“We had a family. A house, land, and 14 cows,” said Hossain.

His family now is entirely dependent on the aid provided by NGOs and INGOs.  “They do not give money. But money is essential to buy other daily essentials,” said Hossain.

Hossain has some experience in working on construction sites of NGOs at the camp. “They sometimes offer some contractual work on a daily basis. But most days there is nothing to do,” he added.

“We left our country to save our lives. If our own country’s government does not want us to live there and uses the army to kill and drive us away, how could we think of going back there?,” he said.

Hossain and his family feel that they have no country, no address, and no identity. “I even had to sell my wife’s ornaments to hire a boat to cross the Naf river. Nobody helps without money.”

This sense of displacement permeates all refugee experience. Going from having a home and a sense of identity, to being stateless. 

Aroma lived with her grandfather in Comilla. He was a retired politician, deputy leader of the House in united India, and former health minister in  Ataur Rahman Khan’s cabinet (1956–58). Among his many irksome infractions in the West Pakistan government was his demand in the Constituent Assembly for Bangla to be one of the languages of the Constituent Assembly, along with Urdu and English.

He tabled an amendment motion on February 25, 1948 to that end.

Liaquat Ali Khan was displeased and Dhirendranath was a marked man. Long after he retired, on March 25, 1971, the Pakistani army began patrolling around his house. On March 29, they finally came in and picked him up at the age of 89, along with his son Dilip Dutta. 

Aroma and her mother, were moved from one neighbor’s house to another until news of Dhirendranath Dutta spread on Akashbani radio, and Indira Gandhi held a minute of silence at the Lok Sabha. When they crossed into India in April, watching many people die on the way, Aroma told the press: “They are killing them like birds. Open the borders, let them in.” 

In that spirit, having had that experience, Bangladesh let over a million Rohingya refugees into the country since the crackdown on them on August 25, 2017, in Myanmar.

According to the financial tracking system of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), only $202.3m, less than one quarter of the $920.5m appealed for in the Joint Response Plan (JRP) for the Rohingya humanitarian crisis in 2019, has been met as of June 10.

An internal report by former Guatemalan foreign minister and UN ambassador, Gert Rosenthal, seen by Reuters on Monday, said there was a “systemic failure” of the United Nations (UN) in dealing with the situation in Myanmar ahead of the deadly 2017 military crackdown, because the UN did not have a unified strategy and lacked Security Council support. 


Fazlur Rahman Raju contributed to this story.