"The message from the Rohingya community is very clear- the NVC is not for us. We are not foreigners, we are indigenous and the NVC is a genocide card," a Rohingya refugee said.
A report published by Fortify Rights Tuesday said that the National Verification Card (NVC) scheme targeting Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims is part of a campaign by Myanmar authorities that seeks to erase their identity.
"The Myanmar government is trying to destroy the Rohingya people through an administrative process that effectively strips them of basic rights," Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights said adding, "This process and its impacts lie at the root of the Rohingya crisis, and until it's addressed, the crisis will continue."
The report, namely, “Tools of Genocide: National Verification Cards and the Denial of Citizenship of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar”, looked into alternative identities given to Rohingyas over the past few decades for alleged “citizenship scrutiny” that have gradually limited their rights, including freedom of movement, expression, and access to livelihood.
"The NVC process is just another reiteration of discriminatory cards that have been given out over the years to the Rohingya," John Quinley III, author of the report and a human rights specialist at Fortify Rights, told Al Jazeera.
The report also revealed that the authorities used torture and abuse to force Rohingyas to accept the verification card.
"I was beaten everywhere - my head, back, chest, and all over my body," a 62-year-old Rohingya farmer recounted who was told that, "If you don't accept the NVC, we will kill you.”
The NVCs are "the first step before the scrutinization of citizenship," according to the government.
United Nations Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar found out that Rohingyas were increasingly pressured to accept the NVCs just before the crackdown on the civilians in 2016 and 2017. The Fortify Rights report also found out the same.
"Evidence suggests a positive correlation between Myanmar authorities' efforts to force Rohingya to accept NVCs and their efforts to destroy the Rohingya as a group," the report said.
"These findings demonstrate that the NVC process has not been a response to the crisis in Rakhine State, as the government suggests, but rather a fundamental part of the crisis."
"The message from the Rohingya community is very clear- the NVC is not for us. We are not foreigners, we are indigenous and the NVC is a genocide card," said Khin Maung, a Rohingya refugee in Bangladesh.
"According to the 1982 Citizenship Law there is no mention of NVC, but the Myanmar government is trying to destroy the Rohingya community with this card."
Myanmar's 1982 Citizenship Law says that only people of 135 ethnic groups identified by the state are citizens of the country. These are the groups which settled in Myanmar before 1824 when the British first occupied the country.
"Despite generations of residence in Myanmar, the Rohingya are not considered to be amongst these official indigenous races and are thus effectively excluded from full citizenship,” John Quinley III said.