Freedom of the press, a crucial pillar safeguarding human rights during displacement crises, is under assault around the world. Refugees International supports a free press as a vital and powerful ally in our advocacy for refugees on World Press Freedom Day.
March is Women’s History month, and Refugees International had the honor of meeting two women, both born in Myanmar, who received the Secretary of State’s 2019 International Women of Courage (IWOC) award.
On August 27, the UN-mandated Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar released a devastating report concluding that the country’s military leaders should be prosecuted for the “gravest crimes under international law, against the Rohingya minority. While this aspect of the report has garnered the greatest attention, other important findings including that the crimes of the Myanmar military go far beyond those committed against the Rohingya, and that the burden of responsibility for those crimes extends beyond the military have gone largely unnoticed.
As we mark the first anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority from Myanmar, it is clear that too little has been done to support, protect, and provide for this marginalized community. Now, accountability is urgently needed to provide a sense of justice to the Rohingya, to act as a deterrent against further abuses of the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities in the country, and to help stabilize the region.
During a recent mission to the camps in Bangladesh which now houses tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees, Daniel Sullivan and Francisca Vigaud-Walsh interviewed Mayyu Ali, a young Rohingya man who described the crimes against the Rohingya people in Myanmar. Mayyu called on the international community to take concrete action to end the violence.
The Security Council delegation's visit to the destroyed Rohingya villages in Myanmar should be an important first critical step toward accountability for the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, and an important step toward the type of conditions conducive to the voluntary return of Rohingya in safety and dignity to Myanmar. Now the UN and international community must deliver.
Refugees International (RI) traveled to Bangladesh in May 2017, visiting the makeshift settlements for Rohingya refugees who have fled from neighboring Myanmar. More than 70,000 Rohingya have fled severe human rights abuses by the Myanmar military since October 2016, joining as many as 500,000 estimated Rohingya who have come to Bangladesh during decades of persecution in Myanmar.
On February 3, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report citing systematic violence by Myanmar security forces against the Rohingya Muslim minority population. The report concludes that the systematic nature of the abuses by the government security forces “very likely amount to commission of crimes against humanity”.
During the annual May to October monsoon season, Myanmar experiences low-level flooding, which creates favourable conditions for rice cultivation, Myanmar’s leading crop. However, in July 2015, heavier than normal downpours combined with the arrival of Cyclone Komen created unprecedented flash floods, general flooding, and landslides, a national disaster that affected 12 of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions. An estimated 1.6 million people were displaced and more than 20 percent of Myanmar’s cultivated land was damaged.
In September, Refugees International returned to some of the hardest hit areas in Rakhine State, Sagaing Region, and Chin State to see how communities were recovering a year after the flooding.
More than one hundred thousand Rohingya Muslims have fled violence and persecution in Myanmar in recent years. In May 2015, thousands were abandoned on boats on the Andaman Sea, after the discovery of mass graves in human trafficking camps along the Thailand-Malaysia border led to a crackdown on human traffickers. The primary desired destination for the Rohingya refugees has been Malaysia, where tens of thousands live unrecognized as refugees at risk of exploitation and in constant fear of detention. Their lives are generally better than in the home country they fled, but still far too vulnerable.
Refugees International (RI) was just on the ground in Malaysia exploring conditions for several Rohingya communities who are among the tens of thousands who have fled persecution in Myanmar in recent years. Their journeys were often more horrific than the conditions from which they fled and their lives in Malaysia are only better in relative terms. The truth of this reality is starkly illuminated in the story of two sisters, Amina and Khadija.*
As President Obama welcomes Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar, to the United States this week and celebrates her country’s democratic reforms, Refugees International will be traveling to Southeast Asia to meet with a population that is not welcome in her country: the Rohingya.