Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:40 pm on 20th December 2018.

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Photo of Mohammad Yasin Mohammad Yasin Labour, Bedford 2:40 pm, 20th December 2018

I thank my hon. Friend Rushanara Ali for her excellent work in bringing this important debate to the House, and I thank Mrs Main for her excellent work as well. This is a very important issue, and having listened to some of the speeches of my hon. Friends, I am feeling quite emotional over the trauma that the Rohingya people are going through. It is unbelievable in this day and age. I cannot believe that the international community has failed completely to help these people.

Only last month, buses and trucks stood ready to return refugees to Myanmar from the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp, but no one wanted to go back. There are 900,000 Rohingya in more than two dozen camps in the area, living in appalling and dangerous conditions. Food and medical facilities are poor, there is little or no access to education for children, and living conditions are dire. New arrivals are living in highly congested areas and are vulnerable to disease and starvation. There is no proper sanitation, there is insufficient water supply, and women and children are living with the threat of, or enduring, horrific sexual violence and trafficking.

As bleak and disturbing as this picture is, the prospect of forced repatriation to a dangerously hostile home country, stripped of rights and citizenship, is even worse. The draft UN resolution aims to put a timeline on Myanmar allowing the return of more than 700,000 refugees, but all the evidence points to the fact it is not safe for even one refugee to return. It is an act of gross inhumanity that refugees still living with the trauma of horrific experiences are being forced back to a Buddhist-majority country that is still perpetrating genocide against the Rohingya people.

According to UN investigators, thousands of Rohingya are still fleeing to Bangladesh, and the estimated 250,000 to 400,000 who have remained following last year’s brutal military campaign in Myanmar continue to suffer the most severe restrictions and repression. Furthermore, according to reports from Reuters and others, the Myanmar Government are taking steps that threaten to make the purge of the Rohingya permanent. In August 2017, all 6,000 Rohingya residents of the village of Inn Din in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state fled a brutal army campaign. Rohingya Muslims and Buddhist villagers were once neighbours here, but Rohingya houses were burned to the ground and all trace of their lives there erased.

New satellite images show that the area was bulldozed and security buildings constructed where the Muslim houses stood. New homes have also sprung up, but not for the Rohingya. The new inhabitants are Buddhists, largely from other parts of Rakhine. The Myanmar Government’s resettlement maps show that Rohingya refugees returning to Rakhine will be herded into settlements that segregate them from the rest of the population.

The international community, including the British Government, has failed to take effective action to hold those responsible to account, address the root causes of the crisis and provide sufficient support to refugees. They cannot stand back and allow forced repatriation to a homeland where genocide is still happening. The British Government must accept in full the findings and recommendations of the UN fact-finding mission and officially accept that what took place is genocide, if we are to provide an adequate response to this appalling human suffering.

I welcome the Government’s leading role in humanitarian assistance for Rohingya refugees, but we must act now to improve security for women and children in the camps. The UK Government must take action through the UN Security Council to ensure that the Burmese authorities promptly bring suspected perpetrators of crimes against Rohingya to justice, including by referring perpetrators to the International Criminal Court. All the Rohingya refugees would like to return to Myanmar, but they cannot be expected to do so without guarantees of safety, citizenship and dignity.