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‘Rohingyas illegal immigrants, given asylum on humanitarian ground’



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By A Staff Reporter
Kathmandu, Dec. 29: In 2012, Fakir Alam (name changed), was the first Rohingya Muslim to enter Nepal from Myanmar.
He is currently living with 12 other people from three families at Lasuntar of Kapan in Kathmandu.
The Rohingyas, a migrant community living as refugees in Nepal, are residing in rented spaces in three locations on the outskirts of the Kathmandu Valley.
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Rohingyas entered Nepal in the 1990s and mainly in 2012. The country does not recognise the Rohingya community as refugees but as illegal immigrants.
“They are illegal immigrants, but knowing this fact, we are giving them asylum here on humanitarian ground,” joint-secretary and spokesperson at the Ministry of Home Affairs Kedarnath Sharma told The Rising Nepal on Sunday.
Alam, who was found residing at Lasuntar along with his family members, shared how he came to Nepal. Alam said, “We reached Bangladesh 30 days after leaving our home in Myanmar, and after that we spent 10 days working as labourers there.”
“To reach Nepal via India, we had paid money to middlemen to sneak into India and then to Nepal,” he said.
Before reaching Nepal, they had worked at a meat shop in Uttar Pradesh, India for weeks, but unfortunately, Indian Police intensified the search after getting information that Muslim people fleeing from Myanmar had come to India.
“The police then issued a strict threatening against us saying that they will file a terrorist charge against them,” he said. “Out of fear of getting arrest, we then decided to leave India immediately,” he said.
“But, luckily, I found a Nepali man there at the meat factory who saved me and other friends from the Indian police,” he said.
“The Nepali man told us we would be safe in Nepal and helped us to enter Nepal. That is how we crossed the border in Jogbani and reached Kathmandu some seven years ago,” Alam said.
Alam and his other friends visited the Jame Mosque in Kathmandu after they arrived in Kathmandu city for the first time.
Alam recalled that the mosque arranged food for them while the UN refugee agency provided them identity cards and Rs 5,000 allowance per family per month.
“We did not speak the local language of Myanmar, but we managed to find a place to live here,” he said.
The Rohingyas who arrived in Nepal settled near Kapan, then they rented land in Lasuntar and Hattigauda.
They said that today the UNHCR has stopped certifying them as refugees and provided them an ID for new entrants.
Meanwhile, joint secretary Sharma said that the Rohingyas were allowed to stay in Nepal on humanitarian grounds. “We don’t have any laws related to refugees. That is why they can stay here until they do not breach any law,” he said.
“We have formed a committee to conduct a study about the exact number of the Rohingyas taking shelter in Nepal illegally,” Sharma said.
The community has demanded that either the government help them resettle in any third country, or provide them Nepali citizenship so that they can peacefully live in Nepal.
“Bangladesh wants to send us back to Myanmar. India treats us like terrorists. Nepal is the only country where we feel safe,” he said.
According to informal information of Nepal Police, there are over 650 Rohingyas unofficially taking shelter in Nepal. Among which, nearly half of the total Rohingyas had been certified by the UNHCR.
Nepal is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugees Convention, nor is it a signatory to the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. So the country is not bound to provide shelter to refugees from any part of the world.