Friday, July 27, 2012

Protection of Rohingya Refugees: Bangladesh Rejects International Appeals

Bangladesh continued to “push back” the Rohingyas feeling sectarian violence in the Northern Rakhine State of Myanmar ruling out appeals from international communities and human rights organizations.

The Government of the United States, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) among others urged Bangladesh Government to open its border and allow the Rohingyas fleeing violence to get temporary refuge. The violence reportedly costs 80 lives.

At home the main opposition party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has also heavily criticized the government for not considering “humanitarian aspects of the Rohingyas.” Mainstream national human rights activists and civil society groups also urged the government to respect international humanitarian norms and allow the Rohingyas to take “temporary refuge.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW), the New York-based human rights watchdog had appealed to the Government of Bangladesh on 20 June 2012 for providing the “Rohingyas humanitarian assistance and grant them temporary refuge until it is safe for them to return home.”

“By closing its border when violence in Arakan State is out of control, Bangladesh is putting lives at grave risk,” Bill Frelick, Director of Refugee Programme at HRW, said in a press statement. (

However, Bangladesh government rejected all appeals concerning requests to open its border referring to “security concerns.” The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Dipu Moni, at the National Parliament and public events said that Bangladesh has no obligation to provide refuge to the Rohingyas since it was not a party to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 and it’s Protocol of 1968.

However, experts from the HRW and independent legal academics have different views; according to them, as a norm of customary international law, the Rohingyas deserve international protection while they are fleeing threats to their lives, and Bangladesh is expected to respect those international norms.

According to BBC reports, Bangladesh, until 6 July, has “pushed back” reportedly 900 Rohingyas.

Bangladesh has provided refuge to the Rohingyas in 1978 and during 1991-92. Still now, there are about 28,000 Rohingyas who are the residual of the latest influx. They are living in two official refugee camps in the southern district of Cox’s Bazaar. Apart from that there are reportedly 200,000 to 500,000 Myanmar nationals, mainly the Rohingyas in Bangladesh without any legal status.

ERT’s Situation Report on Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh

The Equal Rights Trust (ERT), a London-based advocacy group has heavily criticized the governments in Myanmar and Bangladesh for their failure to protect the Rohingyas, an ethnic Muslim minority group of Northern Rakhine State in Myanmar (Burma).

The ERT has launched a report, Burning Homes, Sinking Lives: A Situation Report on Violence against Sstateless Rohingya in Myanmar and their Refoulement from Bangladesh. The report presents the findings and observations of ERT researchers who were on the fields. (

The report, which includes testimony collected from over 50 interviews with Rohingya in the period between 13 and 29 June 2012, paints an extremely bleak picture, which demands urgent action to prevent further human rights violations including loss of life, suffering, forced displacement and damage to property.
The report also reviews the legal obligations of the parties to this crisis and makes recommendations to the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh, the UNHCR and the international community.

The ERT recommendations to the Government of Myanmar for urgently taking all necessary steps to end the violence and protect all individuals in Myanmar; fully cooperates with UN agencies to enable independent monitoring of the situation and the provision of humanitarian assistance and support to affected communities; brings martial law in the region to an end as soon as possible; conducts an impartial and transparent enquiry into the causes of the violence; and reduces statelessness in Myanmar by establishing clear paths towards the acquisition of citizenship and effective nationality for all stateless persons including the Rohingya.

The report recommends to the Government of Bangladesh to open its borders to Rohingya refugees fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar and refrains from refoulement or forcible return of all refugees, asylum seekers and persons of concern; fully cooperates with UN agencies and international NGOs to enable the provision of humanitarian assistance and support to all refugees; and fully cooperates with the international community in providing humanitarian support and protection in a fair and non-discriminatory manner to all long-term Rohingya refugees and persons of concern within Bangladesh.

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