Refugees International urges the United Nations Security Council to use its visits to Bangladesh and Myanmar to demand humanitarian access in Rakhine State and accountability for the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people. The visit to the camps in Bangladesh, where 700,000 Rohingya have fled, must also serve to highlight the urgent need for humanitarian support and improved coordination ahead of the monsoon and cyclone seasons.
A team from Refugees International recently conducted a mission to the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh and will soon release a report on the humanitarian situation. Interviews with Rohingya refugees in the camps, including with a woman who had just arrived days before from Myanmar, made clear that conditions in Myanmar are still not secure for the Rohingya people and are far from conducive for voluntary returns in safety and dignity. Repatriation of Rohingya refugees to their homes in western Myanmar must remain the ultimate goal, but any credible return process will require significant improvements and the participation of and access for independent international observers. The onus remains on the Government of Myanmar to end the ongoing violence and abuses, respect the basic rights of Rohingya, and hold accountable those responsible for committing crimes against humanity.
The Security Council delegation should also use the visit to Myanmar to draw attention to continued displacement and restricted humanitarian access in Kachin and northern Shan States (see Refugees International report).
In Bangladesh, a new crisis looms as hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees live in bamboo and plastic shelters on the sides of hills. The congestion of the camps and deficient waste management mechanisms threaten major disease outbreaks. Meanwhile, onerous and inconsistent visa and registration processes by the Government of Bangladesh are hindering the ability of international humanitarians to provide lifesaving services.
The visits of the UN Security Council provide an opportunity to take a significant step in addressing the root causes of the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, as well as to rally the support and improved coordination necessary to mitigate the suffering of the Rohingya people living in camps in Bangladesh.
To make the most of this opportunity, the UN Security Council should support and urge the Government of Bangladesh to:
- Remove bureaucratic hurdles preventing or delaying international humanitarian organizations from providing lifesaving aid;
- Grant refugee status to the Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh.
The UN Security Council should further demand of the Government of Myanmar:
- An end to abuses in northern Rakhine State and recognition of the rights of Rohingya, including a path to citizenship;
- Access for the independent international fact-finding mission established by the UN Human Rights Council;
- Unfettered humanitarian access to northern Rakhine State as well as Kachin and northern Shan States for those still in need of aid.
If progress is not seen on these critical areas the UN Security Council must be prepared to take stronger measures, including targeted sanctions on high-level Myanmar military officials, enforcement of a global arms embargo on the Myanmar military, and referral to the International Criminal Court.