Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Questions (121)

Niall Collins

Question:

121. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the situation in Rakhine State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21603/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Since military operations in Rakhine State escalated in August 2017, an estimated 720,000 refugees have fled to Bangladesh. A significant number of civilians were also internally displaced within Rakhine and 128,000 people remain in IDP camps having fled previous bouts of violence. This exodus of refugees and internal displacement was accompanied by widespread and credible claims of serious human rights violations in Rakhine State by the Myanmar Security Forces.

Recent months have again seen an escalation of violence in Rakhine State and neighbouring Chin State related to ongoing conflict between the Myanmar Security Forces and ethnic armed groups. The situation remains unstable with increasing violence generating further displacement of civilians.

In response, through both bilateral contacts with Myanmar and through our memberships of the UN and EU, Ireland has deployed political pressure to address this crisis. Most recently, this has included calling on the Myanmar government to urgently establish greater access to these communities for UN agencies and humanitarian NGOs in order to fully assess and address the needs of civilians, who remain in areas of conflict and have been traumatically affected by recent events. The EU Foreign Affairs Council has adopted several sets of Council Conclusions addressing gross human rights violations in Myanmar’s Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States. The Conclusions called on Myanmar to hold those responsible for these crimes to account and to take meaningful action towards the creation of conditions conducive to a safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of those displaced to their places of origin. The EU has also put in place targeted restrictive measures against senior military officers of the Myanmar Security Forces responsible for these acts. In addition, the European Commission is currently reviewing Myanmar’s trade preferences under the framework of the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme. Ireland has also worked closely with UN and EU partners to push for accountability for the human rights violations that have occurred. In September 2018, the Human Rights Council adopted a Resolution, proposed jointly by the EU and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, mandating a new impartial independent mechanism to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of the most serious violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011. This is an important step in facilitating fair and independent criminal proceedings for these crimes.

Ireland has strongly and consistently pressed for unhindered humanitarian access to affected areas and continues to provide humanitarian support for the Rohingya community both in Myanmar and Bangladesh. For 2019, Ireland has already contributed €1 million to the UNHCR response to the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh, building on funding of €2.3 million since 2017. Ireland’s support has also included the provision of advisers to UN agencies through the Rapid Response Initiative. We are also the 8th largest contributor to the UN-administered Central Emergency Response Fund, which has provided more than €37 million in humanitarian assistance in Bangladesh and Rakhine State since 2017. The best long-term framework for a sustainable solution that addresses the concerns of the Rohingya, including the key issue of securing citizenship rights and the protection that accrues, remains the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State that was led by Kofi Annan.

Last month, Ambassador to Thailand and Myanmar, Tony Cotter, met with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and discussed the current situation in Rakhine State and international concerns. Officials in my Department, including in the Embassy of Ireland in Thailand, will continue to monitor the situation.