© REUTERS/Danish Siddigui
On May 26th, Chairman Ban’s OP-ED about the Rohingya people of Myanmar was published in Thomson Reutuers Foundation News.
Victims of targeted ethnic cleansing, sexual assault and murder by Myanmar armed forces, the Rohingya people have suffered the worst humanitarian crises of the 21st century. Millions of them are now refugees struggling to find a home, vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus.
Chairman Ban urged the international community to support the Bali Process, and the ASEAN to resettle the refugees.
There have been tragic deaths in 2015, when 4,000 refugees died at sea. But now we have the Bali Process, which is an agreement and a framework for collaboration to rescue those at sea. Member states also agreed to address the fundamental causes of irregular migration and ensure refugees and migrants with safe travel by sea. Chairman Ban urged the Co-Chair states of the 2016 Bali Declaration to activate a Consultative Mechanism to call upon affected countries to facilitate a timely and regional resolution to handle the crisis in the Bay of Bengal
“States in the region that are not directly impacted should offer support to those that do proceed with search and rescue and disembarkation,” added Chairman Ban. He mentioned Rohingya refugees who were sent to Bhasan Char by the Bangladesh, which is seen as remote and unsafe.
He insisted that states need to cooperate to make sure that refugees are only disembarked to safe locations, especially in times of the coronavirus. Public health must be considered when providing asylum and accepting refugees, and this can be done more effectively when the process is managed by governments. “I also urge politicians to avoid stoking xenophobic, anti-refugee sentiment at a time of acute public anxiety,” Chairman Ban pointed out.
Moreover, the international society must support these efforts. Majority of the refugees are hosted in other developing countries, with dense population and difficult economies. Without the attention and support of the international society, it is impossible for these states to accept large numbers of refugees in the long term.
“Ultimately, the responsibility for the displaced Rohingya lies with Myanmar and political efforts must continue to be made to create a situation where the Rohingya from Myanmar can return home safely and voluntarily.”
Chairman Ban emphasized the responsibility of the Myanmar government, where the root cause of the displacement lies. He urged Myanmar to follow the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. Bilateral diplomatic effort between Bangladesh and Myanmar and international legal efforts to deal with the perpetrator of atrocities in Myanmar needs to be continued.
“But international agreements are clear: forcing refugees back to places of persecution is illegal, and refugees, including the Rohingya from Myanmar, can only return when it is safe to do so,” said Chairman Ban. He reiterated the importance of global cooperation and support for the Rohingya refugees.
“Amid this global pandemic, we are all only as strong as the weakest link in our human chain. This is a moment for action, upholding the rule of law and showing solidarity for those in peril on the sea.”