Two year anniversary of the refugee crisis . . .
Late August marks the second anniversary of the Rohingya refugee crisis. From late August and throughout September 2017, the Myanmar military launched a crackdown in the country’s northern Rakhine State, which, according to Médecins Sans Frontières and Human Rights Watch, led to the death of approximately 6,700 Rohingya Muslims, the burning down of hundreds of villages, and numerous cases of human rights violations, including gang-rape. Following the military crackdown, 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. Since then efforts to repatriate Rohingya Muslims back to Myanmar have failed. In November 2018, Myanmar approved the repatriation of 2,000 Rohingya Muslims, but none of these refugees agreed to return.
Fearful refugees refuse repatriation again . . .
On August 22, a number of Rohingya refugees were expected to be repatriated. Initially, Bangladesh sent a list of 22,000 refugees, but Myanmar approved the return of only 3,540. None of the refugees selected for repatriation, however, have agreed to return to northern Rakhine State, arguing conditions are not at all conducive to resettlement. First, there is ongoing infighting between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army, an insurgent militia group composed mainly of a Buddhist ethnic group striving for more autonomy. Second, the Myanmar government has done little to rehabilitate the burned down Rohingya villages. If Rohingya were to return to northern Rakihne, they would live in refugee camps.
A role for Canada . . .
Bob Rae, who served as Prime Minister Trudeau’s special envoy to Myanmar, published a report in April 2018 calling for Canada to take a leadership role in resolving the refugee crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Rae recommended the Canadian government focus on providing humanitarian assistance, education, supporting infrastructure, and also collaborating with the UN and other international organization working in the camps. Rae also called for Canada to lobby the Bangladeshi government for the allocation of additional land for refugees around Cox’s Bazar, which is now the largest refugee settlement in the world, and to make efforts to help the Bangladeshi population residing in the Cox’s Bazar area. Because this refugee crisis is not going to be resolved in the near future, Canada should act on these recommendations and take a leading role in the international efforts to help the Rohingya. Even though Canada expressed its willingness to accept Rohingya refugees in November 2018, Bangladesh refused this request for fear that the move would only encourage the flow of more refugee from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Still, Canada needs to continue petitioning Bangladesh for approval to absorb refugees.