The Rohingya Refugee Crisis & How You Can Help

For decades, the Rohingya, a community of Muslim people living in majority Buddhist Myanmar, have suffered systematic and legislative marginalization. Religious and ethnic tensions have escalated into a violent military campaign, causing more than 800,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh in less than 18 months. This displacement has created a system of cramped and underfunded refugee camps. Another 5,300 Rohingya are trapped on a piece of unclaimed land between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have also constructed makeshift shelters on sandy hills in Bangladesh.

These impromptu makeshift camps are being threatened by the monsoon season, which could flood the latrines, thereby contaminating the drinking water and sparking an outbreak of disease. As a result, Rohingya refugee communities are faced with dire living standards and impoverishment. Furthermore, they have been stripped of their citizenship and denied access to basic employment and health care. 

The lack of strong political leadership within Myanmar has compounded the difficulties faced by Rohingya refugees. Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto head of state, has not meaningfully addressed the crisis and has been accused of ‘complicity’ in the slaughter of Rohingya Muslims. She has repeatedly denied that Muslims have been subject to ethnic cleansing and has argued that people are exaggerating the severity of the violence. 

                                    Image: Aung San Suu Kyi

The case of the Rohingya refugees requires immediate attention. Below are a few simple ways in which we can all support their cause.

Lobby

There are a few existing movements which aim to place pressure on governments and local representatives in order to persuade them to take a stronger stance on the issue of Rohingya refugees.

The International Campaign for the Rohingya is “lobbying Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the U.S. government to ‘use its influence, including its key position on the United Nations Security Council, to end the attacks by the Burmese army against Rohingya communities." You can support this cause by adding your name to the petition here.

You can also support a bipartisan resolution put forward by Senators John McCain and Dick Durbin. The bill condemns the violence against Rohingyas, urges the government to allow unrestricted access to humanitarian groups within the conflict zone, and demands an end to hostilities by local authorities.

Send a pre-written message advocating the bill’s passage directly to your member of Congress by filling out this form from Amnesty here.

Donate

Action Against Hunger, Unicef and Doctors Without Borders are a couple examples of organizations, which are responding to the Rohingya crisis and could use financial support.

Action Against Hunger has taken action in Bangladesh, delivering hot food and water as well as providing mental health counsellors and health workers.

Unicef is redistributing shelter, food and water and has announced a plan to install water pumps and deep tube wells in camps.

Doctors Without Border have provided over 2,000 staff members to treat ailments including violence-related injuries, cases of sexual violence and severe dehydration.