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Across Asia, Rohingya face hardship, uncertainty

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(13 Sep 2017) Recent violence in Myanmar has driven hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to seek refuge across the border in Bangladesh. But Rohingya have been fleeing persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar for decades, and many who have made it to safety in other countries still face a precarious existence.Some are barred from working or feel unwelcome in unfamiliar lands. Still, many say they are relieved to be safe.The numbers in Nepal are small; around 250 Rohingya have lived there since anti-Muslim riots erupted in Myanmar in 2012, according to the UN refugee agency, which offers them education and medical support.The refugees live in a ramshackle camp carved out on a slope on the outskirts of the capital, Kathmandu. Their huts of tin, bamboo and plastic sheets are connected by narrow stone steps.There is also a large communal hut, where children study the Quran each day before school and men gather to discuss the latest news from Myanmar received in phone calls from family.Most Rohingya in Nepal work as day labourers, masons or plumbers. They don't get paid regularly, and also have trouble with language barriers, they said. But they live in peace, and local businesses and social workers have donated tin sheets and bamboo for them to build their makeshift homes.Still, many dream of going back to Myanmar.The situation in Malaysia meanwhile is very different.Some 56,000 Rohingya refugees are registered with the UN refugee agency there, with an estimated 40,000 more whose status has yet to be assessed. Obtaining a UN refugee card generally protects people from arrest.They live on the fringe, unable to legally work because the country, like Thailand and Indonesia, doesn't recognise asylum seekers or refugees.Most scrape by on dirty or dangerous jobs that are shunned by most Malaysians. The majority live in squalid settlements, cramped low-cost flats or isolated houses where they work on construction sites, restaurants, factories and plantations.They have no access to free health care and state-run schools.But for many, even living on the margins of Malaysian society is an improvement from what they faced in Myanmar."Only my younger brother and one older brother are still alive" in Myanmar, said Muhammad Ayub. "The rest have been killed." He has lived for four years in a small shanty settlement on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur that includes a small mosque and a school teaching children the Quran. He works odd jobs when he can get them, and said that if Myanmar ensures the safety of Rohingya, "I will surely go back."Another Rohingya who has been in the Southeast Asian country for six years, Ibrahim Mohamad Hussein, said he worried about the fate of his relatives who are among some 200 people still living in his village in Myanmar.Earlier this year, Malaysia started a pilot project to let Rohingya refugees with UNHCR cards work to prevent them from being exploited as cheap labour. But officials said the response was poor, as most Rohingya did not want to leave their communities to work in plantations or factories far away.Malaysia has been cautious of being swamped by an influx of migrants. In 2015, boats carrying Rohingya and Bangladeshi refugees were pushed back into international waters by the Malaysian and Thai navies. But Malaysia and Indonesia later took more than 1,600 of the refugees in.On Monday, Malaysian officials said they were bracing for a possible new influx of Rohingya amid the renewed violence in Myanmar and pledged that anyone arriving by boat would be treated humanely.You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/you... Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork

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AP Archive 4115804 f09103944eadd0cb712c059d13dc492d Asia Rohingya Malaysia Southeast Asia Kathmandu Nepal South Asia Myanmar Social affairs General news
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