Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Questions (130)

Niall Collins


130. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of efforts to address the plight of the Rohingya; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26929/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Since the most recent escalation of violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, in August 2017, approximately 700,000 members of the Rohingya community have fled across the border to Bangladesh where they now reside in precarious conditions in refugee camps. Conditions are likely to deteriorate over the coming months as the monsoon season progresses. The exodus of refugees has been accompanied by credible claims of serious human rights violations by the Myanmar Security Forces. These include reports of widespread killing of civilians, sexual and gender based violence, arbitrary arrests, and the burning of Rohingya villages. Efforts by the international community to address this crisis have focused on responding to the humanitarian crisis, promoting a political solution and pressing for accountability for crimes and other violations of human rights abuses that have occurred. Most recently, on 6 June, a Memorandum of Understanding has been agreed between Myanmar and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and UNDP, the UN Development Programme, to establish a framework for cooperation between the parties aimed at creating conducive conditions for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of these refugees from Bangladesh to their places of origin. The MoU also aims to help create improved and resilient livelihoods for all communities living in Rakhine State.

Ireland continues to actively engage with our international partners in these efforts through bilateral contacts in Myanmar and via participation in the EU and UN responses. Ireland will be active on this issue at the upcoming 38th Session of the Human Rights Council.

Ireland has consistently called for an independent and impartial investigation into the serious and credible allegations of human rights violations by the Myanmar security forces. In that regard, we have strongly supported the extension of the mandates of the UN Fact Finding Mission and UN Special Rapporteur to Myanmar Yanghee Lee, and have asked the Government of Myanmar to cooperate with them and allow them access to the country. Their work in investigating and recording victim testimony and gathering other evidence, so that it can be preserved for further criminal proceedings, is crucial to ensuring full accountability.

Ireland has also actively engaged in the formation of the EU’s position including in the most recent EU Foreign Affairs Council’s Council Conclusions on Myanmar, which were adopted on 26 February last. These conclusions condemn the human rights violations in Myanmar, support the mandates of the Fact Finding Mission and Special Rapporteur and provide for targeted restrictive measures against senior military officers of the Myanmar armed forces responsible for these acts. These sanctions are now being put in place.

While these efforts are aimed at achieving a political solution to the crisis, there is also a critical need for a coherent humanitarian response to the extremely difficult conditions faced by the huge numbers of displaced members of the Rohingya community now mainly in Bangladesh. To this end, Ireland has actively supported the international humanitarian response to the refugee crisis and we provided direct funding of €1 million in 2017 with an additional €1 million allocated for 2018. Our support has focused on food, shelter, water and sanitation. Through the Irish Aid Rapid Response facility, we have provided 37 tonnes of hygiene, sanitation and shelter kits and deployed experts in water and sanitation and humanitarian coordination on the ground. In addition, as the 6th largest donor to the UN-administered Central Emergency Response Fund, Ireland’s estimated contribution through UN pooled funding amounted to a further €1 million to deliver life-saving support.

My Department will continue to liaise closely with EU and other international partners to press for progress in resolving this crisis including through our Embassy in Thailand who are closely monitoring the situation.

Question No. 131 answered with Question No. 107.