20 Jun
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Statement: World Refugee Day

CRDI brings attention to the Rohingya cause on World Refugee Day 2019

(Toronto, Canada, June 20, 2019) – Today we honour the strength and spirit of the millions of refugees around the world. We acknowledge all those who have been forced to flee their homes because of persecution, war, or violence.

Once again, Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative (CRDI) focuses its attention on Rohingya refugees. By now, it is well known that Rohingya people make up one of the largest refugee populations in the entire world. Although most Rohingya refugees are in Bangladesh, they also constitute large refugee communities in many other countries of the world.

Why Rohingya refugees?

Since 1982, Myanmar officially stopped recognizing the Rohingya as one of the country’s 135 official ethnic groups, as a new law barred them from eligibility for citizenship. Although the democratization process ostensibly began in 2011, that time also saw the beginning of renewed violence between the military and ethno-religious minority groups. Since 2012, “a wrenching spectacle of human rights violations on a massive scale” has occurred in Rakhine state against Rohingya people (Rosenthal, 2019).

In the most recent escalation of violence, on 25 August 2017, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (a small insurgent group also known as ARSA) attacked military bases and security force outposts across Rakhine State. The military retaliated by conducting clearance operations, forcing over 725 000 people to cross into Bangladesh. The 2018 Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar’s (IIFFMM) report concludes that Myanmar’s commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and his top military leaders should be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

The UN and UNHCR

Gert Rosenthal, in his recent 2019 review of UN’s actions in Myanmar states that “the statelessness and extreme deprivation of some 1.4 million Rohingya people, not to mention the grave abuses wrought on them and other Muslim minorities in Myanmar, are totally unacceptable and nothing less than an offense to humanity.”

The mandate of the UNHCR is to protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people, and to assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country.

For many who are hoping for change, the Rohingya refugee crisis feels like it is at an impasse. As they are both stateless and refugee, Rohingya communities are not able to safely repatriate back to Myanmar, are not legally allowed to integrate into many of their host countries, and very few have made it to third countries where they have refugee states.

Gert Rosenthal’s review of the UN’s actions in Myanmar has named it, “as one more case of systemic and structural failures.”  The response strategies that have been used in the past are no longer adequate to support the realities that refugees face.

CRDI calls on the global community to ensure that the UN and UNHCR are accountable to their mandate. Without political pressure, political will has no chance of materializing.

We must keep vigilant and use every opportunity to bring attention to this cause.

For more information:

Saifullah Muhammad – crdi@rohingya.ca

Yuriko Cowper-Smith – ycowpers@uoguelph.ca

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