Rohingya refugees must not be forgotten

Bangladesh announces crackdown on refugees (Press Release)

Abdul Momen, Bangladesh's Foreign Minister, threatens to tighten his country's policy on refugees. Picture: Ryan Brown via UN Photos.

--- Göttingen, August 25, 2019 --- Two years after the violent expulsion of 700,000 Rohingya from Burma, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) demands more help for the refugees. The international community must offer the Rohingya a life perspective and show more initiative for the education and health of the displaced persons. Hopelessness is spreading in the camps in Bangladesh, as it seems to be unlikely that the refugees will be able to return home soon. Thus, simply watching the impoverishment of the Rohingya refugees will jeopardize the stability of South Asia. "The international community has a responsibility to protect the Muslim minority, and it must finally live up to this responsibility," emphasized Ulrich Delius, the STP's director, in Göttingen on Sunday – as a response to threats by Bangladesh's Foreign Minister Abdul Momen to tighten his country's policy on refugees.

The camps – which were hastily built following the violent expulsions in the impoverished areas in Bangladesh, close to the border with Burma – are mainly inhabited by women, children, and adolescents. "In the camps, an entire people and their future is destroyed. There are no life prospects for the young people," warned Delius. Human trafficking, prostitution, and other forms of crime are widespread in the camps, which resembled large cities. Since Burma was not prepared to recognize the Rohingya as equal citizens, but continued the human rights violations against the 200,000 members of the Muslim minority, there are no hopes for a timely return. The camps might also contribute to a radicalization of the Rohingya. "The Rohingya must not become the Palestinians of South Asia," warned the STP. If only a small minority of the displaced people decide to take up arms, the entire region might be destabilized.

Bangladesh is a home to more than a million Rohingya refugees. Even before the mass exodus began in August 2017, more than 300,000 members of the Bangladeshi minority had sought protection from serious human rights violations in their home country. In Burma, they had to live in apartheid-like conditions in Burma: They were not allowed to move freely, were used as forced laborers, and were systematically disenfranchised. Following attacks on police forces and border patrols in August, Burma's army had forcefully driven the Rohingya out of the country. According to the United Nations, the expulsions, which had been systematically planned, are to be seen as a genocide. The United Nations describes the Rohingya as the world's most persecuted minority.


Header image: Ryan Brown via UN Photos