Report: Panel discussion and book release by CRG and RLS

Priya Singh and Sucharita Sengupta

Panel Discussion on Rohingya and Syrian Refugees by Calcutta Research Group, on 6 April 2017, supported by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (RLS).

No other time was more apt perhaps than this to interrogate India’s refugee policies along with an appraisal of the contemporary global regime of care and protection for migrant communities. Civil war in Syria has been one of the worst humanitarian crises in the recent decade challenging Europe’s migration policy. Incessant deaths in the Mediterranean, in border detention camps, plight of fleeing refugees, women and trafficked victims- be it Syrians in Europe or Rohingyas in South Asia- for war, state violence, religious persecution, flood and so on, have amounted to an inordinate number of 60 million refugees worldwide. Perceptions resulting into worst manifestations of human rights violations have on the one hand drawn empathy, but on the other have unfurled xenophobia, attempting to curb migration in general. The recent policies of the U.S government concerning economic migration are indicative of this trend. India too is witnessing myriad forms of discrimination. From racial attack on Nigerian students in the capital to establishing detention centres in order to detect migrants in Assam and now identifying Rohingya refugees in Jammu in order to deport them back to Myanmar, thus evokes concerns for scholars and practitioners working on issues of human rights, gender, justice and refugees. These concerns culminated into a roundtable discussion by CRG on India’s migration policy; practice and release of the special issue of Refugee Watch Journal (A CRG Publication) on Syrian Refugees. The idea was to drive home the point that while the migration crisis in Europe has resulted into a number of regional initiatives and sensitisation of international media, the same has hardly ensued in case of the Rohingyas, world’s largest persecuted stales community in Asia. Therefore, there is a need to present the contemporary crisis of the global south as well along with the European scenario. While panelists of the round table discussion shared their experiences on the Asian scenario, the specialty of this issue of Refugee Watch is that it has articles based on extensive field research of the European scenario, especially Syrian refugees living as stateless people across the Middle East. The three panelists were Professor Ranabir Samaddar, Distinguished Chair in Migration and Forced Migration Studies, CRG; Professor Paula Banerjee, Director, CRG and Dean of Arts, Calcutta University; Professor Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury, Vice Chancellor, Rabindra Bharati University. The Panel discussion was chaired by Professor Samita Sen, Director, School of Women’s Studies and Dean, Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies, Law and Management, Jadavpur University. Continue reading “Report: Panel discussion and book release by CRG and RLS”

The Labour of the Refugee Economies

Ranabir Samaddar

Most writings on refugee economy or the immigrant economy refer to changes in the immigrant labour absorption policies of the Western governments. These writings reflect on the economic activities of the refugees and other victims of forced migration. Refugees are seen as economic actors in the market. But we do not get a full picture of why capitalism in late twentieth or early twenty first century needs these refugee or immigrant economic actors. The idea we get is that refugees and other victims of forced migration want to be economically viable, relevant to the host economies, and are economically relevant, but they are discriminated against. These writings showcase refugees’ attempts to survive meaningfully in camps, cities, and other settlements, in ethnically homogenous or mixed settings, and the ways they prove useful to market, big business, and organised trade. Several studies along this line tell us of the success stories of migrants’ economic activities. The message is: the refugee or the migrant as an economic actor has arrived, do not neglect the refugee, do not dismiss the refugee as an economic actor. Yet the organic link between the immigrant as an economic actor and the global capitalist economy seems to escape the analysis in these writings.

Continue reading “The Labour of the Refugee Economies”

Male Out-Migration and Empowerment of Women Left Behind in Indian Sunderbans

Sourodeep Bose, Shatabdi Saha, Rupak Goswami.

Farming in the Sundarbans region is typically rainfed, constrained by hostile and challenged ecosystems, and is characterized by low input use and poor crop productivity. The male farmers, due to fragmented land holding and frequent crop failure (as a result ofbiophysical constraints, and extreme climatic events), are compelled to migrate to different districts of West Bengal, to other states, or even to other countries to sustain their livelihoods. Their female counterparts are ‘left-behind’ in the villages and perform a wide array of works, both domestic and farm-related. Domination, deprivation and discrimination, along with lack of recognition and remuneration for tremendous workload are common for these left-behind women in a patriarchal society. But, this expansion of gender role may slowly and consistently lead to autonomy of marginal women in this marginal land. A conclusive assertion, however, asks for scholastic empirical engagement.

This short excerpt is taken from research conducted as part of a master’s dissertation work in the field of rural development. The study is placed within the context of ‘migration left behind nexus’ literature (Toyota et al. 2007), which focuses on the life experiences and well-being of the women living at the origin during their husband’s absence. The aim of the project is to understand the effect of male out-migration on the lives of left-behind women in selected areas of Indian Sunderbans.  The existing literature under the ‘migration-left-behind nexus’ is more engaged with transnational migration (Sarkar and Islam, 2014) and very few of them explicitly deal with circular and recursivemigration, a common feature in many developing nations, owing to the seasonal nature of their farming. Moreover, attempt to understand the impact of male outmigration within the framework of women empowerment has been largely absent (Sinha et al., 2012).

Continue reading “Male Out-Migration and Empowerment of Women Left Behind in Indian Sunderbans”

‘When you realise no one cares’: A narrative from Nauru

Somdatta Chakraborty

Nauru, officially the Republic of Nauru, is an island country in Micronesia in the Central Pacific and the smallest republic in the world. Formerly known as Pleasant Island, it was once a British colony which has however long passed under the aegis of the Australian government and in recent years run into controversy as a site for the “offshore processing” of people who seek asylum and protection. Since 2013, Australia has sent all asylum-seekers arriving by boat into detention on Nauru, Papua New Guinea or Manus Island, and denied them resettlement in Australia despite an outcry from rights groups. In fact innumerable countries, the UN, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented such instances of illegal detention. Unfortunately, as per recent statistics, more than 77% of the population forcibly sent to Nauru by the Australian government consists of refugees who are not allowed to leave the island. In the critically acclaimed They Cannot take the Sky, Michael Green, Andre Dao, Angelica Neville, Dana Affleck and Sienna Merope as editors have courageously and painstakingly documented the first-person narratives of the people detained as they reveal not only their extraordinary journeys and their daily struggles but also their reflections on love, death, hope and injustice, thus breaking the culture of silence and suppression that surrounds them from the moment they are taken to the island. A creation of the Behind the Wire publication stable, which incidentally is an award winning oral history organization, They Cannot take the Sky carries forward the tenor of exploring and documenting the truth in incidents of illegal detention in the aforementioned islands. Below are my impressions of reading an extract from the book, the narrative of a child called Benjamin. Continue reading “‘When you realise no one cares’: A narrative from Nauru”

Simshar: A Portrayal of Perspectives

Adrija Maitra

Simshar, a Maltese drama film which released on the 27th of April, 2014 showcases two parallel plotlines occurring simultaneously, which are brought closer with the common theme of the mortal hazards of international migration. This film is not only a debut of the director, Rebecca Cremona, but the first Maltese film to be made. On one hand, we see a Maltese fisherman named Simon (Lofti Abdelli) and his family, to whom the ship ‘Simshar’ belongs. On the other hand, we see a Turkish vessel with African migrants on board, travelling to Italy. Mark Misfud plays Alex, a medic on the Turkish vessel, whose interactions with Makeda (Laura Kpegli) shapes the way he views their current predicament. The film throws light on a personal story of a fisherman’s family, in the backdrop of several others who are in a situation to face the same fate, anytime. As is mentioned in the opening of the film, it is indeed inspired by true events. Continue reading “Simshar: A Portrayal of Perspectives”

Kitaiskii Bazar

Anita Sengupta

Almaty, situated in southern Kazakhstan, is close to the Chinese border. One of the most interesting places in the outskirts of the city is Barakholka, a large out-of-town bazar that lies to the north-west of Almaty, reputedly stretching for nearly five kilometers. Nestled in the foothills of the Tien Shan, it is a noisy, congested and chaotic maze of zigzagging aisles where thousands shop every day. The market, which stretches along-side a road leading out of town, is organised into sections, each named differently—“Europe,” “Evrazia” and so on. Barakholka is a rabbit warren of stalls (actually comprising several different bazars, each offering specific merchandise). Most of the bazar is outside, and trying to find a particular section is nearly impossible. One can spend hours turning corners and walking through long barn like buildings weaving through the crowds. The bazar sells literally everything that one would want to buy from clothes to food and toys, hardware to handicrafts. It is also a market where Uzbeks, Uighurs, and Dungans converge to sell products of Chinese make. Inside the labyrinths of shops and tents there are restaurants that reflect the ethnic diversity of the market. There are also always hawkers who walk through the narrow aisles selling tea, fruit and somsa, yelling alternately in Kazakh and Russian.

Continue reading “Kitaiskii Bazar”

Understanding Trafficking in West Bengal: Some Personal Experiences

Asokendu Sengupta

(Prof. Sengupta is Former Chairperson, West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights. This two part series is informed by his experiences as well as expertise in the field. This is the second part.)

I served as the Chairperson, West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights for about 2 years (2014-16). I also had the opportunity to act as the Chairman, State Level Inspection Team (SLIT) & State Level Inspection & Monitoring (SLIM) Committee, during 2012-15. From my experiences I have learnt that it is very difficult to identify the cases of trafficking as it is often made in guise of marriage, recruitment of domestic worker or workers for shops etc. I will share a few cases with my readers that will reflect on the complex nature of the problem and the difficulties of (and within) the administration.

Case I

Once I visited Uttarpara Children’s Home along with Shri Bidhan Bhattacharya & Shri Sujato Bhadra, members of SLIM. A group of women surrounded us as soon as we reached there. We learnt that they were all trafficked Bengali girls who had been rescued from Maharashtra. The Maharashtra Police, by order of an appropriate court, transferred these Bengali-speaking girls to the West Bengal authorities. As a temporary measure, the authorities here had dumped them at Uttarpara Children’s Home. Naturally the Home management was not at all happy with this. They were not equipped or trained to handle such trafficked victims. Moreover, as they rightly pointed out, these women were all adults. They were misfits in a children’s Home.

We also learnt that the Government had already arranged for an alternative shelter for them. But the women were unsatisfied. They demanded a better shelter and also an assurance from us ( unfortunately they considered us representatives of the government authority) that they would be allowed to use mobile phones and other gadgets as well as participate in the profession they were in for last seven months. They did not want the government to intervene.

Being inexperienced & ignorant, I asked “Why! Don’t you like to be reintegrated with your family or community? Should we not try for that?”

They rejected my proposal unanimously. They laughed at me instead. Continue reading “Understanding Trafficking in West Bengal: Some Personal Experiences”

CHILD TRAFFICKING IN INDIA: A NOTE

Asokendu Sengupta

(Prof. Sengupta is Former Chairperson, West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights. This two part series is informed by his experiences as well as expertise in the field. This is the first part.)

Over 130 children have been reported missing every day this year. About 15,988 children were reported missing this year till April 2015, of which over half (6,921) were untraced.

Times of India /TNN | Jul 24, 2015

“Children who have gone missing were at the risk of being trafficked. … Every 30 seconds a child runs away from his home!”

Devi Sirohi, Chairperson, Chandigarh Commission for Protection of Child Rights(CCPCR), Keynote address at the Workshop on Child Trafficking,12-03-2015

 

Trafficking & Child Trafficking

It is difficult to find a comprehensive definition of trafficking in persons. NCPCR (National Commission for Protection of Child Rights) defines trafficking as trade in human, most commonly for the purpose of sexual slavery, forced labour or commercial sexual exploitation for the traffickers or others; or for the extraction of organs or tissues, including surrogacy and ova removal; or for providing a spouse in the context of forced marriages. Palermo Protocol defines trafficking in persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat, or force or coercion, abduction, or fraud, deception, abuse of power, position of vulnerability, giving or receiving payments/benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Thus, the thrusts of the definitions of NCPCR and Palermo Protocol are different. While the former emphasises on the purposes of trafficking, the latter’s stress is on the act itself. In any study of trafficking it is important to focus on the child trafficking as NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) Action Research has established a direct linkage between ‘Human Trafficking’ and ‘Missing Children’.[1] Missing children are sold as bonded labourers, child prostitutes, beggars, drug peddlers, sold for illicit trading of organs etc. These children are normally from economically and socially disadvantaged marginalized sections.

Continue reading “CHILD TRAFFICKING IN INDIA: A NOTE”

“Bari Jabo Kobe?” : Plight of a homeless young Rohingya

Adrija Maitra

(Adrija is an intern at Mahanirban Calcutta research Group and can be reached at eshamaitra07@gmail.com)

“When will I go home?”* With a look of half uncertain hope and half despair, fourteen year old Safi Akhter just wanted me to answer this question. I had gone to meet her to document her personal narrative – the journey from her homeland Myanmar, where she was born, to the land where her parents currently live in, India. She has been living in India for a year now, although if given a chance, she would go home. (I interviewed her as a part of my ongoing research project on the Rohingyas, which aims to adopt a gendered lens on the Rohingya international crisis. Safi is the sole Rohingya girl in West Bengal at this moment, and thus, her narrative will add a first-hand dimension to my research undertaking.)

Safi belongs to the Rohingya community, a minority Muslim community who call the now Rakhine state of Myanmar their homeland. According to the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO), “Muslim Arakanese or Rohingya are indigenous to Arakan. Having genealogical linkup with the people of Wesali or Vesali kingdom of Arakan, the Rohingya of today are a perfect example of its ancient inhabitants.” The golden age of the Muslim Arakanese culture came during the 15th century, under the Mrauk-U dynasty (1430-1784). The royal court patronized Arakanese literature, Muslim titles were adopted by the Mrauk-U kings, coins were minted in which was inscribed an Islamic declaration of faith, and also took inspiration from the dressing sense of the Persian rulers.

The Rakhines entered the Arakan kingdom around 10th century, although tensions between the Rakhines and Rohingyas emerged only after the British conquest of Arakan in 1825. Thousands of Bengalis, especially from Chittagong, migrated to Arakan to work in the British colonial plantations which boosted the imperial economy. The Rakhines bitterly resented this influx of “illegal Bengalis” taking away their jobs, and thus, in post-colonial Burma, the Rohingyas were discriminated against. Ethnically and culturally distinct than the Burmese, the latter viewed the Rohingyas as a remnant of their oppressive, exploitative, and colonial past. Therefore, the 1982 Burmese Citizenship Law recognized 135 ethnic groups in Myanmar, excluding the Rohingyas, rendering them stateless. Against such a historical-cultural-political backdrop, Safi experiences reality.

Safi has grown up in a village which she calls Harifara, in Myanmar, with her maternal grandmother (nani), a maternal uncle, and his daughter Zayida. Her parents moved to India when she was 4-5 years old, and listening to her childhood experiences it seemed that she hardly has any memories with her parents. There was but one trip that she had made to India with her parents, of which she couldn’t recount any particulars. She remembers playing with Zayida in their home in Myanmar, and spoke of her cousin with a smile. “Why did you leave Myanmar?” I asked her. “Because my parents are in India.”  Her countenance, almost within a fraction of a second, became grave and thoughtful. Continue reading ““Bari Jabo Kobe?” : Plight of a homeless young Rohingya”

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