|Picture from here
The Rohingya were dying at sea and boats pushed back to sea
as nations of the Indian Ocean refused help.
This is not a "stop the boats" issue.
This is a failure of international 'virtue' to act in the face of
ethnic deprivation, religious discrimination and potential genocide.
MYANMAR: HUMANITARIAN AND AID GROUPS
PLEAD FOR UN SECRETARY-GENERAL
TO NEGOTIATE ACCESS TO ROHINGYA CAMPS
21st May, 2015
The letter, which was published yesterday, urges Mr Ban to use his personal influence to urge the government of Myanmar (also known as Burma) to allow increased access for aid to Rakhine State (also known as Arakan).
The organisations - which also includes Refugees International, the US Campaign for Burma and the Asia-Pacific Refugee Rights Network - say that humanitarian access to temporary camps where at least 140,000 Rohingya have lived since fleeing their homes following "horrific violence" in June and October 2012 is "severely limited" thanks to the policies of the government and their "failure to ensure a secure environment for the delivery of aid".
They add that "at least 80,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar by boat, facing an extremely precarious fate at sea because of the desperate situation they face in their own country".This ongoing crisis has made headlines around the world in recent days after thousands of Rohingyas - along with some Bangladeshis - have been left stranded in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. The UN said on Wednesday that it estimated almost 4,000 people from Myanmar and Bangladesh were stranded at sea, 2000 of whom had been stranded for more than 40 days on boats off the coasts of Myanmar and Bangladesh.
While the governments of a number of South-East Asian countries initially refused to grant them permission to land, the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia have since relented and have said they will now allow them to land on the understanding that the international community will ensure they are repatriated or resettled within a year. The Myanmar Government has said that it was ready to provide humanitarian assistance to boat people but refused to attend talks involving Asian governments this week.
In their letter, the organisations say that according to sources within Burma, at least 70 per cent of the Rohingya have no access to safe water or sanitation, only two per cent of Rohingya women give birth in a hospital and there is just one doctor per 160,000 people - well above the World Health Organization recommendation of one doctor for every 5,000 people. They say that while the humanitarian crisis is most acute in the camps of the internally displaced peoples, "it is important to note than around 800,000 Rohingyas living outside the camps are also in urgent need of assistance".
"In some area the rates of malnutrition are over 20 per cent and the provision of health services is almost non-existent."
The letter quotes the Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Baroness Amos - who visited camps in Rahkine State in 2014 as saying that the camps ranked among the worse she had ever seen. "It's a dire situation and we have to do something about it."
Noting the success Mr Ban had in negotiating access for international humanitarian aid following Cyclone Nargis in 2008, the groups have urged Mr Ban to take a "personal lead" in negotiations with the government of Burma "for humanitarian aid to be provided to all in need, regardless of race of religion".
"Hundreds of thousands of people who have little food, medicine or shelter and have been stripped not only of their citizenship but also their basic dignity are looking to you and the United Nations for help. We appeal to you not to fail them."
Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of the UK-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide, says the organisation is "deeply disturbed" at the "human tragedy" facing the Rohingya people, thousands of whom had fled displacement camps where they face "severe racial and religious persecution"."It is time for the international community to work together to address this crisis, both the immediate humanitarian emergency and the longer term root causes, and that is why we have joined with other organisations in writing to the secretary-general..."
Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott said today that Australia would not be resettling any of the refugees within its borders and wouldn't do anything to encourage the people smuggling trade.
"Nope, nope, nope," was the Prime Minister's response when asked if Australia would play any role in offering resettlement to any of the thousands of migrants caught up in South East Asia's refugee crisis. "I'm sorry. If you want to start a new life, you come through the front door, not through the back door," he said.
Rev Dr Peter Catt, chair of the Australian Churches' Refugee Taskforce, called on the Australian Government to show moral and political leadership and to apply diplomatic pressure to Myanmar and bordering locations where the persecution of Rohingyas is causing widespread suffering and displacement.
He said Australia could immediately take an active and constructive role in supporting the UNHCR to send mobile processing teams to the points of disembarkation, by taking in more refugees from the region and by supporting Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia to help disembark people and provide material aid and medical support."