The Government of Bangladesh and its people are under constant stress to carry the load of the Rohingya refugees. Despite a series of diplomatic efforts in the last several years, none of them have been repatriated to their homeland Rakhine State of Myanmar. To feed and keep them in a human living atmosphere Bangladesh has been relentlessly working hard mostly with its natural resources and sacrificed immensely of its green, true, the huge load of this large scale of refugees has been offering social troubles to the local inhabitants.
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Theoretically or practically, in both ways, Bangladesh needs a solution that Myanmar’s citizens must cross the border of Bangladesh for their homes to live. In this process, the government of Bangladesh is in a method to accept any positive contribution from any country.
In connection with such a policy, the Australian Government reaffirmed its dedication to providing humanitarian aid to the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. On December 20, 2023, during the farewell meeting of the Australian High Commissioner Jeremy Bruer with the Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, the support for Bangladesh’s stance on repatriating displaced Rohingya individuals to Myanmar was conveyed.
In response, Momen acknowledged Australia’s consistent support for the Rohingya issue and emphasized the necessity for a safe and secure repatriation as the sole resolution to the crisis. The discussion also included commendations from the Australian envoy regarding Bangladesh’s developmental achievements and bilateral trade.
Momen expressed contentment with the existing cooperation in trade, commerce, education, and people-to-people connections, highlighting the potential for further collaboration in skill development, the blue economy, energy security, and addressing the adverse effects of climate change.
Additionally, Momen thanked Australia for ensuring continued DFQF access for Bangladeshi products to its market even after Bangladesh graduates from the LDC group in 2026.
Australia’s Support for the Rohingya
Australia consistently addresses the Rohingya crisis through international and bilateral diplomacy, echoing global calls for Myanmar’s authorities to show restraint, protect civilians, and grant unrestricted access to humanitarian workers. The Australian government supports the complete implementation of recommendations from the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, expressing a willingness to aid Myanmar in the long-term process.
Australia co-sponsored a UN Human Rights Council resolution advocating for an international fact-finding mission to investigate human rights abuses in northern Rakhine State in March 2017. However, Myanmar has hindered the mission’s entry into Rakhine State. Despite reports of Australia attempting to soften a Human Rights Council resolution on Myanmar, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade emphasized the importance of maintaining communication with Myanmar on security, human rights, and humanitarian issues.
Australian leaders, including Prime Minister Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, engaged in bilateral meetings with Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, emphasizing support for a peaceful resolution and humanitarian aid. The Rohingya crisis was not mentioned in the ASEAN-Australia Summit’s joint statement due to divergent views within ASEAN on human rights issues.
In response to allegations of ethnic cleansing and genocide, Australia reiterated its deep concern at the Human Rights Council in March 2018, calling for a credible and independent investigation. The Australian government awaits the UN fact-finding mission’s findings, expected in September 2018.
Australia’s Ambassador to Myanmar met with Myanmar’s military commander-in-chief in April 2018, discussing defense cooperation and the situation in Rakhine State. Australia expressed concern over the arrest of Reuters journalists, attended their court hearings, and joined other countries in calling for their release and unhindered media access to Rakhine State.
The background of the Rohingya crisis
The Rohingya crisis is a complex and long-standing humanitarian crisis that revolves around the persecution and discrimination faced by the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority group in Myanmar (formerly Burma). The roots of the problem can be traced back to the colonial era and the formation of the state of Burma in the 20th century.
Colonial Legacy: During British rule in Burma, which lasted from the mid-19th century until 1948, significant migration occurred across the region. The British brought in laborers from British India (now India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan) to work in various capacities, altering the demographic composition of the area. The Rohingya, predominantly Muslim and of South Asian descent, settled in the coastal region of Arakan (now Rakhine State) in western Burma.
Post-Independence Period: After gaining independence in 1948, Burma underwent political and social changes that affected minority groups. The Rohingya, despite having lived in the region for generations, were not granted citizenship under the new Burmese government in 1982. The government considered them to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, denying them basic rights and rendering them stateless.
Escalation of Tensions: Tensions between the Buddhist majority and the Rohingya minority escalated over the years, leading to periodic outbreaks of violence. The situation worsened in 2012 when communal violence erupted in Rakhine State, displacing thousands of Rohingya and leaving many dead. This violence was fueled by deep-seated ethnic and religious animosities.
2017 Exodus: The most significant and widely reported incident occurred in 2017 when the Myanmar military launched a brutal crackdown in response to attacks by a Rohingya insurgent group. The military’s actions included widespread violence, mass killings, sexual assault, and the burning of Rohingya villages. This campaign forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, creating one of the largest refugee crises in recent history.
International Response and Refugee Crisis: The international community, comprised of human rights organizations and various governments, has strongly condemned Myanmar for its treatment of the Rohingya population. The term “ethnic cleansing” has been used to characterize the actions of the military, but Myanmar’s government consistently denies allegations of widespread human rights abuses, asserting that its operations are legitimate counterinsurgency efforts. As of January 2022, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees live in overcrowded and precarious conditions in camps in Bangladesh. This situation remains a major concern for international organizations, governments, and humanitarian groups, who are focused on addressing the immediate needs of the displaced population while seeking long-term solutions to the ongoing Rohingya crisis.
Bangladesh and The Rohingya Crisis
The Rohingya crisis has placed Bangladesh at the forefront of one of the most significant humanitarian challenges in recent history. In January 2022, the Rohingya refugee population in Bangladesh swelled to unprecedented numbers, with hundreds of thousands seeking shelter from persecution in neighboring Myanmar. The crisis has posed multifaceted challenges to Bangladesh, ranging from the strain on resources to diplomatic complexities.
Refugee Influx and Humanitarian Response: The most immediate and pressing issue for Bangladesh has been the massive influx of Rohingya refugees. The country has shown remarkable compassion by opening its borders to those fleeing violence and persecution. However, this influx has strained the resources of Bangladesh, particularly in the Cox’s Bazar district, where the majority of Rohingya refugees have sought shelter. The Bangladesh government, along with various international organizations and NGOs, has been engaged in providing humanitarian aid, including food, shelter, healthcare, and education, to the displaced population.
Diplomatic Challenges: Bangladesh’s response to the Rohingya crisis has not been limited to humanitarian efforts; it has also engaged diplomatically to address the root causes of the issue. The government has called for international support in pressuring Myanmar to address the human rights abuses and create conditions conducive to the safe and voluntary return of the Rohingya refugees. Bangladesh has sought diplomatic solutions through bilateral and multilateral forums, urging the international community to hold Myanmar accountable for its actions.
The strain on Resources: The sustained presence of a large refugee population has strained Bangladesh’s resources, particularly in the Cox’s Bazar region. The sudden and massive influx of people has put pressure on local infrastructure, including healthcare, education, and sanitation facilities. This strain has not only impacted the Rohingya but also the host communities, leading to concerns about the long-term sustainability of the situation.
Challenges to Social Harmony: The Rohingya crisis has also presented challenges to social harmony within Bangladesh. The presence of a large refugee population has the potential to create tensions with local communities, especially when resources are limited. Efforts have been made to promote understanding and cooperation between the Rohingya and host communities, but these efforts require ongoing attention.
International Assistance: Bangladesh’s response to the Rohingya crisis has been met with international recognition and assistance. Various countries and international organizations have provided financial aid and resources to support the humanitarian efforts in Bangladesh. However, sustaining and expanding these efforts over the long term remains a formidable challenge.
The Rohingya crisis has placed Bangladesh in a challenging position, requiring a delicate balance between humanitarian response, diplomatic engagement, and domestic considerations. As the situation evolves, continued international support and collaboration are crucial for addressing the immediate needs of the Rohingya refugees and finding a lasting solution to the complex issues at the heart of the crisis. The plight of the Rohingya remains a poignant reminder of the global community’s shared responsibility to protect and uphold the rights of vulnerable populations.