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We have a duty to the reach out the hand of humanity to the Rohingya

Rohingya ethnic migrants in the Ujong Blang Beach area in Lhokseumawe, September 7, 2020, Aceh Province, Indonesia | PA Images

3 min read

Four years after the Myanmar military unleashed a wave of violence against Rohingya civilians, there is still much more to be done by international governments to support and protect them

The suffering of refugees throughout history has been among the most cruel and persistent evils of humanity.

In the world today 65 million people are refugees or internally displaced, the largest number in recorded history. The situation could get even worse as global inequality becomes greater, and the climate emergency leads to more climate refugees.

Amongst the many refugee crises across the world, there are some that we seldom hear about on the news, and one of these - despite it being among the largest and fastest movements of people in recent history - is the Rohingya refugee crisis.

Four years after the Myanmar military unleashed a wave of violence against Rohingya civilians, killing thousands and burning entire villages to the ground, there are millions of Rohingya still displaced across the region.  It is estimated that there are over 1.2 million in Bangladesh, over 100,000 in Malaysia, 200,000 in Pakistan and between 100–200,000 in India.

Whilst Bangladesh is hosting a million refugees, sadly, governments in countries such as Thailand and Malaysia have been very hostile to Rohingya refugees.

The scale of the humanitarian crisis that has unfolded in Myanmar is unprecedented.

According to UNICEF, an estimated 30 %  of children living in the camps suffer from chronic malnutrition, and over 11% suffer from acute malnutrition. An entire generation is growing up without access to education, and babies under 6 months are among the most vulnerable and have malnutrition rates near 50%.

It is also deeply concerning that, sexual abuse, human trafficking, exploitation of children and violence against women have all been reported within the refugee camps.

There are also serious concerns regarding the fencing being erected around the camps, and it restricting the Rohingya’s legitimate freedom of movement and access to services. The UK should urge the Bangladesh authorities to urgently review their approach to security.

International efforts to support the government of Bangladesh, the UN, and international agencies in providing assistance must be scaled up and expanded to protect refugees.

Furthermore, the UN, partner organisations, host countries and the international community must increase its efforts and support to ensure that the human rights of the Rohingya are respected, and that this already vulnerable group are not left to go from one unsafe and dangerous environment to another. 

The origins and the solutions to this crisis lie in Myanmar.  The UK government recently imposed sanctions against two Myanmar military generals, which is a very important symbolical measure, especially for the victims. However, further and more meaningful action must be taken. The UK government should, for instance, prevent British companies from trading with companies in Myanmar that are connected to the military.

Until conditions that will allow for the refugees' eventual voluntary return in safety and dignity are met, the UK government must continue and increase its support towards the Rohingya, and intensify its efforts to bring a peaceful solution to their plight.

The UK government must also engage with UN, and the governments of both Bangladesh and Myanmar to stress the importance of including the Rohingya in discussions about their future. These governments have been largely excluded from high level discussions about their group’s future, which will not help bring about a resolution. 

We have a duty to reach out the hand of humanity, to support and offer friendship to people who are going through the most disastrous time of their lives.


Jeremy Corbyn is Labour MP for Islington North

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