A GROUP of 61 aid groups — including Christian Aid, Oxfam, World Vision, and Caritas — have come together to warn of a worsening refugee crisis in Myanmar.
They reported that, two years after the Rohingya people were forced from their homes, in the face of mass atrocities, almost one million are still refugees in neighbouring Bangladesh (News, 23 August).
The organisations called for the rights of Rohingya and other internally displaced communities in Rakhine State, in Myanmar, to be fully recognised and respected, and for Rohingya refugees to be able to make informed decisions about their own lives, including their return home.
Their intervention came as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that 3450 Rohingya refugees were unwilling to return, despite being cleared to do so by the Myanmar authorities. They said that they wished to go home, but only once assurances could be provided regarding their citizenship status, freedom of movement, and security.
UNHCR said that building confidence was essential, and would require the “continuous engagement of all concerned to build the trust of refugees, and is a process, not a one-off event”.
Christian Aid’s Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy Adviser, Deborah Hyams, said: “The UK and other governments must stand up for the rights of Rohingya communities and all those internally displaced in Rakhine State. It will be essential that their rights are fully respected, including the freedom of movement and access to livelihoods and citizenship. . .
“We call on the international community to act now. Most urgently, the UK and other governments need to address the funding shortfall — the 2019 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya crisis is only 35-per-cent funded to date — and to help ensure that no refugees are repatriated to Myanmar against their will.
In a joint statement, the groups said: “Refugees require much more than basic support for survival: they need their rights, security, and dignity. Many long to return, but fear further violence and persecution.”
It continued: “Discriminatory policies in Myanmar mean that Rohingya communities in Rakhine State continue to face severe movement restrictions, as well as limited access to education, health care, and livelihood opportunities. Some 128,000 displaced Rohingya and other Muslim communities have remained trapped in confined camps in central Rakhine State since 2012, unable to return home.
“There has been no meaningful progress on freedom of movement or human rights. Consultation with displaced communities is limited, and they remain unable to return to their original communities or another location of choice.
“Achieving durable solutions requires that the Myanmar government address the fundamental issues of equal rights, and ensure that all communities in Rakhine State can live in safety, access basic services, and pursue livelihoods opportunities.”