Since military operations in Rakhine State escalated in August 2017, an estimated 720,000, predominantly Rohingya, refugees have fled to Bangladesh. A significant number of Rohingya civilians were also internally displaced within Rakhine and 128,000 people remain in IDP camps having fled previous bouts of violence. Recent months have again seen an escalation of violence in Rakhine State and neighbouring Chin State due to ongoing conflict between the Myanmar Security Forces and ethnic armed groups. The situation remains unstable with increasing violence generating further displacement of civilians.
Ireland, together with our EU and UN partners, has consistently called for the accountability of those who are responsible for such crimes and we continue to advocate for, and support, actions at international level to address this crisis.
The EU has been at the forefront of the international response to the Rohingya crisis. Targeted restrictive measures have been put in place by the EU against senior military officers of the Myanmar Security Forces responsible for these acts and further measures are being kept under review. The EU Foreign Affairs Council has adopted a series of Council Conclusions addressing gross human rights violations in Myanmar’s Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States. These conclusions press for 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.
In addition, the European Commission is currently reviewing Myanmar’s trade preferences under the framework of the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme.
The EU has also worked with our international partners to press for action at UN level including acting as pen-holder on several key initiatives including the establishment of both the UNHRC mandated Independent International Fact-Finding Mission and the recently operational Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar. These are important steps in ensuring accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims.
Furthermore, in January of this year, I attended the EU-ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Brussels, during which the crisis in Rakhine State was raised directly with Myanmar and with our ASEAN counterparts.
Ireland will continue to work with our EU colleagues, and wider partners to respond to the situation and to press for long term solutions to the crisis. Ultimately, the best long-term framework for a sustainable solution that addresses the concerns of the Rohingya, including the key issue of securing citizenship rights, remains the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.