19 May 2015

Nowhere Men!

 I read the novel Roots by Alex Haley many years ago. It told the story of Kunta Kinte the 18th century African teenager who was sold to slavery. I remember being haunted by the images of what the slaves had endured in the hold of the ships as they crossed the Atlantic to America. The story had left me feeling helpless and for days I wasn't at peace.

I was jolted back into that childhood nightmare while watching the news a couple of days ago-  “Myanmar migrants on a boat stranded for a week in the Andaman Sea with no food or water, people dying, while some are resorting to drinking urine”

 The tv channel was covering a story about the Rohingyas crossing over from Myanmar to Malaysia or Indonesia or Thailand, only that nobody wants them and they are stranded at high seas for three months now with no country to go to. They are being called the boat people by the media.

 A little more search on the web and I discovered that the Rohingyas are one of the world's most persecuted minorities. For decades, the Rohingyas suffered from state-sanctioned discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. Denied citizenship by national law, they are effectively stateless. Even the country’s most celebrated lady Aung San Suu Kyi chooses to remain silent on this issue.

In the past three years, attacks on the Rohingya people have left hundreds dead and sparked an exodus of an estimated 1, 20,000 people who have boarded boats to flee to other countries. The flight has helped fuel the human trafficking industry in this area.

Every year we hear of similar stories of people displaced by religious prosecution and domestic conflicts.   People dying in their attempt to cross  the Mediterranean waters into Europe from Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon

They are victims of a growing humanitarian problem to which no country wants to address or foot the bill. Why are the governments not doing anything on this? Aren't the images of helpless humans enough to make governments sit up and change its policies? Why is the UN and wealthy countries like Australia silent on this global issue? Like the proverbial ostrich who buries his head in the sand politicians seem blind to the refugee crisis.

A man has to be left with no choices and be really desperate before he takes his family, with old people, small children, babies, on a dangerous journey leaving his own homeland for an uncertain future. Where does he belong?
Someone rightly quoted that countries are spending millions searching for a missing flight with dead people, while the living are dying in those very seas!

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