I read an English summary of a really interesting article last week, by Rossen Yankov, a Bulgarian journalist, who was advocating for the issuance of a European passport for the Roma ethnic group, many of whom live in Bulgaria but being nomadic are really stateless and should be given stateless citizenship/passports. “They are not Bulgarian; they are European,” states Yankov. The entire article, which was in Bulgarian, was difficult to translate, but lest we think that Yankov is nothing but a warm and fuzzy humanitarian, the objective behind his argument Is much like that of the majority in Myanmar: Rohingya may live here, and may have lived here for generations, but this isn’t really their nationality, so why should we have to bear the sole burden of caring for them? Of course, Myanmar doesn’t spend any time thinking up solutions like Mr Yankov; they just torment and kill their ethnic minority, forcing them to either get out or die. Which got me thinking: there are two types of nomads in the word: nomads by tradition, like the Roma, the Tuareg, the Berber . . . and then there are nomads by necessity, like the Rohingya.
Shouldn’t the Rohingya be considered nomadic now? Expelled from their country of origin—and make no mistake, Myanmar is where these particular individuals originated—they are forced to wander the world in search of employment, sustenance, peace. And if they are considered nomads, wouldn’t the Roma/EU argument apply—that they should be given stateless citizenship/passports?
Some governments make concessions for nomads—access to pasture, participation in government, voting rights that are fluid across states depending on where the Nomad is in the yearly travel cycle. Some nomads stay within country borders, some do not.
So what happens if a country through torture, genocide and exile, creates a nomadic tribe, and the world through its inaction is complicit in this creation-- should that group not be given the same opportunities that the traditional group receives?
Of the Roma, the largest minority in Europe, Yankov says, “They are the eternal strangers here, there, and everywhere else. . . . They are the true Europeans.”
The Rohingya, also, are eternal strangers everywhere. Are they now not the true Asians?