Rohingya threatened by hurricane Amphan

A double threat to the refugees (Press Release)

Less than a week ago, the first cases of Covid-19 were reported in the refugee camps in Cox's Bazaar – and while the disease is spreading, the overcrowded camps are already facing the next catastrophe: tropical cyclone Amphan. Millions of people in India and Bangladesh are in acute danger. "The Rohingya refugees are trapped in the camps," reported Jasna Causevic, the STP's expert on genocide prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. "Due to the cramped conditions and inadequate sanitary facilities, they are at the mercy of the virus – and the makeshift huts, which are made of plastic foil, offer no protection whatsoever from the storm." The situation would be even more threatening if the refugees were to be resettled to the island of Bhasar Chan.

"The cyclone will be devastating, but it will pass. However, the structural problems will remain," fears Dr. Ambia Parveen, Vice President of the European Rohingya Council (ERC). "Without fast international assistance, the virus will spread in the camps – and more storms will come." In the long term, the only way to actually help the Rohingya would be to allow them return to their homes and let them live there with full civil rights, free from repression.

The STP and the ERC are calling on the governments of the Southeast Asian states, especially Bangladesh, on the aid institutions working in the refugee camps, and on the NGOs to use social media channels to provide reliable information on the new coronavirus in the Rohingya language. Further, the camps are in desperate need of hygiene kits with masks, soap, detergents, and disinfectants. More sanitary facilities must be provided. To be able to survive possible fires or natural disasters, the people need solid shelters. A resettlement to Bhasar Chan would cause even more problems.

"The Rohingya will only be able to help and protect themselves if they can return to their homes," Causevic emphasized. "The government of Myanmar must grant them citizenship rights and finally put an end to violence and discrimination." Further, Causevic emphasized that, before an actual repatriation process, the government of Bangladesh would have to lift the internet bans to ensure that Rohingya children can at least receive a bit of online education. Also, it would be necessary to put an end to smuggling and human trafficking, and to punish those who are responsible. This would not only concern Bangladesh, but also Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Myanmar.