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HomeOpinionBuilding a better future for Rohingya refugees in Canada

Building a better future for Rohingya refugees in Canada

By Zaw Win for Fortify Rights

(COX’S BAZAR, March 9 2024) – After fleeing Myanmar’s state-sponsored genocide, many Rohingya abroad are finding ways to give back to their community. Saifullah Muhammad, 37, co-founded the Rohingya Centre in Canada that focuses on building a strong future for the Rohingya.

“We need to create hope and a legacy for our youth in [Canada],” Saifullah Muhammad told Fortify Rights. “If we don’t do so, they have to start from scratch, and they [can’t] support our community, who are now refugees in Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, India, etc.”

Saifullah resettled to Canada in 2016 after spending whole life living as a refugee in Bangladesh, Thailand, and Malaysia. In 2022, he co-founded the Rohingya Centre of Canada in Kitchener, Waterloo, which hosts about 700 Rohingya.

Explaining the reason for establishing the center, Saifullah said:

The Rohingya Centre has first-hand knowledge of the challenges faced by the Rohingya newcomers/refugees as they integrate into Canadian society, including the lack of formal education, cultural-linguistic and financial barriers, as well as social isolation due to poor support networks.

“In response to identified needs, we work closely with the regional, municipal, provincial and federal governments, and we partner with many service-providing agencies around the country,” he added.

The center provides resettlement services, community rebuilding programs, as well as emergency assistance with housing, healthcare, and education for both Rohingya new arrivals to Canada and long-term Rohingya-Canadian residents. The center also supports Rohingya youth through programs that help them thrive in Canadian society while maintaining their Rohingya culture through Rohingya language and religious classes.

Saifullah, co-founder of the Rohingya Centre of Canada, at his desk inside the center.

“Since we are not recognized as citizens in Myanmar, we have lost our cultural and linguistic identity,” Saifullah said. “We have established the Rohingya Centre to preserve our Rohingya language and cultural heritage.”

Rohingya children and other Muslim children read the [Quran] religious books in the Rohingya Centre of Canada.

Saifullah emphasized how education is paramount for ensuring a strong future for Rohingya.

“The education in the Bangladesh refugee camps is not sufficient for our progress,” he said. “We must also teach our children how to use technology and help them attain higher education. Our aim is to ensure our children have access to advanced education. It is our long-term vision…”

The center works closely with UN agencies, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and service providing agencies to facilitate Rohingya resettlement to Canada. Recognizing how the center serves as a bridge between the Rohingya community in Canada and elsewhere, Saifullah told Fortify Rights: “The Rohingya Centre of Canada is accessible not only to the community here in Canada but also to the Rohingya community wherever they are residing.”

Saifullah co-founded the Rohingya Centre of Canada in Kitchener, the Waterloo region, Canada.

In his view, the center ultimately serves as a safety net for the Rohingya, as he said:

The Rohingya community has been here for 18 years, if there is no place for the community to support its members, it is regarded as a hopeless community. … The Rohingya Centre was established for the Rohingya community by the community where Rohingya descent and members of the wider community can meet to socialize and collaborate to achieve their shared goals.

For more information about the “Rohingya Centre of Canada,” you can visit: https://www.rohingyacentre.ca/

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