Migration

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Towards the World Refugee Day: Rohingya - Life without Citizenship

Towards the World Refugee Day, we are presenting testimonies of migrants who we were talking to within the activities performed as part of the project "Protection Monitoring and Assistance to Refugees and Migrants in Belgrade" funded by Save the Children.

"My name is Mohammad Alif Islam. I was born on 26 May 2000. I was born in Talatuli, Arakan State, Myanmar. I am Rohingya, like my parents, and like their parents and parents of their parents. 

There were four people in my family: my father, my mother, my brother and I.  My father is no longer alive, and I do not have information about my mother and brother, I do not know where they are and whether they are alive at all. 

As a Muslim, Rohingya, I did not have the citizenship of Myanmar; I could not get a birth certificate, ID card, passport. I tried several times to obtain any document, but unsuccessfully.  Although the representatives of the Myanmar Government promised in the media that my ethnic group would be allowed to get documents, it was a lie. I did not have an opportunity to leave my fingerprints and obtain any document. My requests for the issuance of documents were later rejected in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, etc.

The fact that I have no citizenship has influenced my life a lot. I had no access to health care, I have never been in a hospital in Myanmar. When I got sick, I was usually treated with fruits or I would chew some leaves traditionally considered good for certain symptoms of diseases. Every couple of years, we would be visited by some international non-governmental organisation that would give us painkillers and we had to spend them rationally over a longer period of time. 

I did not have any formal education; I was not allowed to go to school. We gathered in houses, in groups of three or four, and studied. That is how I learned the letters. 

It was impossible for me to travel regularly. I was in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India. The only way to cross the border for me was to swim across the river dividing the two countries. I do not have a passport and there is no other way for me to cross the border.  

I have never been employed. 

I was forced to leave Myanmar because I am a Muslim. 

The army killed my father, they slaughtered him in my presence. 

They burned our house and the entire estate. They poured petrol and burned it.  I was watching our only cow burning, I was watching hens burning and dying. The army burned all the crops we had.

They tortured me. The Army of Myanmar. I was only 6 years old the first time. They were hitting me with machetes, cutting me, burning my shoulder, my body.

(Mohammad Alif undressed himself on his own initiative and showed us the terrible machete scars on the whole body: his arms, back, legs, back of the head and chest, and the burn scars on his shoulder.)

I was all bloody, continues Alif, I barely survived. 

 Why? Why did they do this to a child?  Why an I not allowed to live in my country?

I escaped first to Bangladesh. I was beaten up there also for being Rohingya. In 2015, I moved to India and lived one year in Calcutta. It was not any better there. I headed from India through Pakistan, Iran and Turkey to Europe. I spent four months in Greece in a reception centre. When I realised that I would not get documents in Greece either, I continued my journey together with my three acquaintances from the centre who had come from Bangladesh. We only passed through Macedonia and arrived in Serbia last night. We had been 15 minutes in Belgrade when you met us." 

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