Media Release from Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
For immediate release: 22nd May 2020
- The UK Government must continue to support the displaced Rohingya living in camps in Cox’s Bazar and should encourage other donors to contribute to the US$877 million required to fund the 2020 Joint Response Plan proposed by the UN.
- The UK Government should continue to make representations to the Government of Bangladesh on the immediate lifting of the mobile internet ban affecting Cox’s Bazar District and the lack of access to SIM cards for the Rohingya. It should make further representations regarding the fencing being erected around and between the camps.
- The UK Government should make further representations against the fencing being erected around the camps, relaying concerns that it could limit the Rohingya’s legitimate freedom of movement and access to services. The UK should urge the Bangladesh authorities to adopt an approach to security that puts the Rohingya first and includes measures such as a civilian police force for community safeguarding.
- The UK Government should also continue to make representations to the Government of Myanmar, on the internet ban in Rakhine State and on the allegations of ongoing human rights abuses. The UK should continue to press Myanmar to comply with the measures defined by the International Court of Justice in January 2020 and the recommendations set out by the Rakhine Advisory Commission and the domestic Independent Commission of Enquiry.
- The scope of this exercise did not cover the UK Government’s long-term strategy for development programming in Myanmar. Minister Burt told the Committee in September 2018 that DFID was reviewing its programming in Myanmar. We would be grateful if the Department could set out the results of the review or confirm that the initiative was set aside; if completed, we wish to know how DFID’s aid programme in Myanmar changed as a result.
British Parliament: Restrictions on Rohingya refugees must be lifted to avoid devastating COVID-19 outbreak
The UK government must pressure the government of Bangladesh to lift restrictions on Rohingya refugees amid confirmed cases of COVID-19, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) said today, in response to the publication of the International Development Committee’s “Humanitarian Crises monitoring: the Rohingya” report.
“We welcome the recommendations of the International Development Committee’s report and hope that the UK government will use the full weight of its authority to pressure Bangladesh into lifting its internet ban on Rohingya refugees,” said Tun Khin, president of BROUK.
Bangladesh is home to close to one million Rohingya refugees, the majority of whom live in overcrowded refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled into Bangladesh after Myanmar launched genocidal attacks in Rakhine State in 2016 and 2017, killing thousands and torching whole villages to the ground.
On 14 May, the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed the first positive case of COVID-19 in the camps. In the week since, Rohingya activists on the ground in Cox’s Bazar have reported that upwards of ten more cases of COVID-19 have been unearthed by testing within the camps.
“Now that cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the camps it is crucial that Rohingya have the ability to access up-to-date public health information. Conditions within the camps make observing social distancing impossible and as such the virus is likely to spread quickly. For the government of Bangladesh to compound the likelihood of an outbreak by denying Rohingya access to life-saving information about the virus would be unconscionable,” said Tun Khin.
The International Development Committee’s report noted that there was a severe shortage of personal protective equipment and isolation beds within the region – and zero ventilators. The camps’ “minimal healthcare provision could not cope with a widespread outbreak.” BROUK is concerned that without concerted pressure from the international community, including the UK government, Rohingya refugees within the camps could be careening towards such an outbreak without the benefit of public health information.
“Bangladesh has been incredibly generous in opening its borders to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who are fleeing a genocide. It has, however, been slow to respond to calls to lift the internet ban. A full-throated diplomatic intervention by the UK could help mitigate the damage of a COVID-19 outbreak among Rohingya,” said Tun Khin.
UK must press Myanmar on ongoing human rights abuses and ICJ provisional measures
BROUK urges the UK government to heed the International Development Committee’s recommendations on Myanmar – to pressure the Myanmar government on the ongoing human rights abuses taking place in Rakhine State and ensure that it complies with the provisional measures set out by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in January 2020.
“The International Court of Justice’s provisional measures were clear: Myanmar had a duty to protect the Rohingya. Yet it has become clear the Myanmar military is using the COVID-19 crisis to ratchet up its genocidal campaign against the Rohingya whilst the attention of the world is elsewhere,” said Tun Khin, president of BROUK.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya remain trapped in camps in Rakhine State and are subject to a mobile internet blackout. The blackout allows the Myanmar military to stop news of its human rights abuses in Rakhine State escaping – and is also restricting Rohingya from accessing information about the COVID-19 crisis.
“Time and time again the Myanmar government has shown its willingness to act with impunity within its own borders when left unchecked. We urge the UK government to listen to it’s the international Development Committee and use all options available to it to compel Myanmar to halt human rights abuses in Rakhine State and comply with the ICJ’s provisional measures in full,” said Tun Khin.
For more information, please contact Tun Khin +44 7888714866.