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Over 850,000 Rohingya live in a refugee camp on small strip of land on the south-eastern coast of Bangladesh. Brutal attacks in Myanmar’s Rakhine State in late August 2017 forced over 680,000 members of the ethnic Muslim minority to flee to Bangladesh, fearing for their lives. Impoverished, physically and psychologically scarred, these people have lived through unspeakable horrors, and now live in squalid conditions in the overcrowded camp. With poor conditions and limited access to healthcare, people are sick and there are growing fears of an epidemic outbreak.Now Present 14,00,000 Rohingya live in Banglades. The government’s insistence that the refugees will go home soon also means that instead of “schools,” children go to “temporary learning centers” where “facilitators,” not “teachers,” provide the rudiments of education to only about one-quarter of the school-age children. These centers provide about two hours a day of instruction geared toward pre-primary and the early primary grades. Nearly 750,000 children and youth who should be in school are not, and there is basically no education for adolescents. Please see this video.
The refugees I interviewed all wanted to return to Myanmar, but only when conditions allow them to return voluntarily. These include citizenship, recognition of their Rohingya identity, justice for crimes committed against them, return of homes and property, and assurances of security, peace, and respect for rights.Bangladesh –and the rest of the world—should hold Myanmar accountable and push for the right of Rohingya refugees to return voluntarily in safety and dignity. But in the meantime, Bangladesh should acknowledge that this will not happen quickly. It should register the Rohingya who have fled Myanmar as refugees, ensure their access to adequate education, health care, and food, water and sanitation, and enable greater freedom of movement to allow refugees to engage in livelihood activities outside the camp. Donor governments should not only step up their support for humanitarian needs in Bangladesh but also their pressure on Myanmar to adopt fundamental reforms regarding the Rohingya and take all necessary steps to reverse last year’s campaign of ethnic cleansing.