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Bangladesh is Losing Grip on Rohingya Refugees

Starting in 2017, the country of Myanmar forcefully pushed the people of the Muslim faith out of the country in order to “cleanse”  Myanmar of religious beliefs other than Buddhism. By 2018, over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims, who primarily lived in Rakhine state in the northern part of Myanmar, sought refuge in the neighboring country of Bangladesh after an increased amount of violence towards them by their own government. As the already heavily populated and geographically small country of Bangladesh has taken in the Rohingya refugees, the two governments have recently come to an understanding that those of the Rohingya faith may return to Myanmar; however, part of the agreement was that the Myanmar government would allow Rohingya Muslims back into the country, but they would be treated as illegal immigrants and denied citizenship. The refugees are very afraid to return due to the violence inflicted upon them prior to their escape and do not accept the terms of the agreement. Rohingyan refugees have become vocal about the agreement between the two countries, protesting in and out of the refugee camps. The chaos created by the protests of the Rohingya refugees, the inability of the two countries to find a viable option and the exasperating number of refugees has turned this into a global crisis.

 Since this past summer, the turmoil within the refugee camps in Bangladesh has sky-rocketed. Bangladesh is unable to contain the vast amounts of people they have taken in. Brad Adams of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch said, “The authorities should take a level-headed approach instead of overreacting to tensions and protests by isolating Rohingya refugees in camps.” The Rohingya refugees have begun publically displaying their frustrations with the two countries, conveying their opinions to people in and out of the refugee camps. The uproar of prostests has agitated the country of Bangledesh, but they are stuck at a dead end due to the fact that those protesting the agreement the agreement to return to Myanmar are not willing to return; they instead want a better life in Bagladesh.

Several refugee and humanitarian non-governmental organizations have entered Bangladesh to help those within the overpopulated refugee camps, most being in Cox’s Bazar, a city on the coast of Myanmar. Within the camps, the Rohingya people cram themselves into small huts made of bamboo with their families where they sleep on hay. Many of the refugees left Myanmar with no belongings and are only living off of what they have found in Bangladesh and were given at the refugee camps. The International Committee of the Red Cross has worked with the Myanmar Red Cross to provide the Rohingya refugees within the camps with, “food, mats, blankets and other household items for men, women and children, shelter and latrine construction materials and technical support to access safe drinking water.” Along with basic necessities for living, the organizations have raised a great amount of concern for the violence and humanitarian factors that go with living within the camps. 

The United Nations has been continuously working with both Myanmar and Bangladesh to find an end to this crisis, or possible ways to support both the over 700,000 refugees and the overcrowded country of Bangladesh that has taken in the refugees. In the past year, the UN has investigated the government and military of Myanmar, in order to prove the wrongdoing towards the people of Myanmar. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres met with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Thailand for their annual meeting and spoke with both Myanmar and Bangladesh, about his concern for the refugee crisis between the two countries. Speaking of the crisis, the Washington Post reported he said, “It remains, of course, Myanmar’s responsibility to address the root causes and ensure a conducive environment for the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees to Rakhine state, in accordance with international norms and standards.”

The U.S. State Department should support the effort to diminish the refugee crisis of the Rohingya people within Bangladesh. As one of the fastest growing refugee crisis’ in the world, with over 700,000 people leaving the country of Myanmar due to the government and military’s ethnic cleansing, the country of Bangladesh needs support of global entities. The International Committee of the Red Cross has worked already in support of the displaced Rohingya people providing them with living necessities and humanitarian responses. The U.N. also should be greatly supported, as they are investigating the crisis and the ethnic response by the country of Myanmar. Providing support would allow the United States to understand the longstanding relationship between the two countries as a western entity and aid an ongoing glabal crisis.