HYDERABAD: The photo of Alan Kurdi, a 3-year-old Turkish boy whose body had washed ashore on a beach in Bordum during the peak of Syrian refugee crisis, had made global headlines two years ago in 2015. The world was left aghast. Back home, three years before this incident i.e. in 2012, Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar had started migrating to Hyderabad. Neither did it make to the headline, nor has much been done for them by the state government.
Spread across at least five pockets in the city, the highest number of Rohingya refugees (600 families), have made Balapur, 30 km from the city’s centre, their home. As per a survey conducted by NGO Save the Children, population as per March 2017 in Balapur is 3,800 and more live across 16 settlements. Their living conditions, however, remain the same. Dirt, muck, garbage and muddy water lead to their tarpaulin-covered, one-roomed homes. Lack of any means of livelihood has left them with no scope to grow.
While the men here struggle to make it to the labour adda, the women engage in scrap collection and segregation, which is stored right in front of their doors.
IN PICTURES: Life of Rohingya refugees at Telangana's Balapur
“We have to travel far and then fight to get work. They pay us less than `200, that too if we are able to get work, which happens once in three to four days,” rues Ziabul Haq, a 30-year-old.
Though India grants asylum and direct assistance to at least 2,00,000 refugees from its neighbouring countries, it is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 protocol.
Therefore, it does not have a national refugee protection framework. As a result, the local governments do not recognise the Rohingya Muslims as citizens. “Wherever we go, they want us to show Aadhar Cards, which we don’t have. This has limited our options. There is too much competition at the labour adda and by now the employers have their favourites,” said Mohammad Salaam, said a 22-year-old.
Refugee cards only proof
Refugee cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are the only proof of their identity. The renewal and maintenance of these cards is being done by the NGO Confederation of Voluntary Associations. While for most families days go by without food, on several occasions, a lot of them rely on charity.
The month of Ramzan is a bonus where local Muslims donate food, clothes and sometimes, money too.
However, women like Zainab Begum and a few others are exceptions. With the help of Self Help Groups initiated by Save the Children, women have recently started coming together to save up money for emergencies. “I borrowed `4,500 on loan and purchased a sewing machine through which I earn around `50 or `100, but not regularly. I have already cleared `1,500 of the loan amount,” she said. Some others have taken up cooking and other activities on which they earn profits.