Since the latest 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. The people and government of Bangladesh have demonstrated extraordinary generosity in receiving such a large influx of refugees. Cox’s Bazar now hosts the largest refugee camp in the world and 1.3 million refugees and host-community members urgently require assistance.
The conditions faced by the displaced members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh are extremely difficult and likely to deteriorate, as the Deputy has pointed out. To this end, Ireland supports the international humanitarian response to the refugee crisis. Ireland directly provided €1 million in 2017 and an additional €1 million has been 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.
This support helps alleviate the immediate problems. However the solution to the crisis must be a political one. In that regard, Ireland has consistently called for the full implementation of the recommendations of the report of the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State as the basis for a long-term, sustainable solution.
Ireland has also called for an independent and impartial investigation into the serious and credible allegations of 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 which have led to the mass exodus of refugees to which the Deputy has referred.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has referred to some of the reported actions committed by the Myanmar Security Forces as a “text book example of ethnic cleansing” while UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee has expressed concerns that these actions “bear the hallmarks of genocide”.
These concerns absolutely reinforce the urgent need for the Government of Myanmar to provide access to the UN Fact Finding Mission so that these human rights violations can be fully investigated.