The tragedy of the Rohingya Muslims is really one of the worst humanitarian disasters the world has ever seen and it has recently become a stigma for humanity. This longstanding crisis that began many years ago is still ongoing. Despite the fact that the Rohingya have been called “the most persecuted minority in the world”, their crisis no longer receives the support and solidarity required from the countries that claim to be the advocates of human rights.
The Rohingya refugees, after fleeing Myanmar, have taken Cox's Bazar as a haven in Southeast Bangladesh. They became stateless after Myanmar refused to recognize their citizenship. Unfortunately, the requirements of daily life in the camps that are cramped with thousands are still a major concern, both for the Rohingya refugees and the authorities of Bangladesh that shelter them.
As for the Rohingya who remained in Myanmar, they face persecution from the military who burn their villages and destroy their homes in a campaign to push them also to flee outside the country. There is no doubt that the Rohingya Muslims are victims of an official policy of racial and systemic segregation, and successive governments in Myanmar have consistently argued that the Rohingya Muslims are not actually an indigenous ethnic group and that, in fact, they are Bengali immigrants, and therefore the constitution does not include them among the groups who are entitled to citizenship.
There is no doubt that the Rohingya issue has put enormous pressure on Bangladesh’s economy, social cohesion, environment and security. Even though the United Nations agencies and other countries have provided material aid to Bangladesh to help the Rohingya refugees, this temporarily alleviates the crisis, but cannot do much to address the plight of Bangladesh or solve the problems of the Rohingya.
Since the camps in Cox's Bazar have become so overcrowded and thus difficult to manage due to social, economic and security challenges, Bangladesh recently started the process of relocating Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char, a remote island in the Bay of Bengal, in clear defiance of international human rights defenders' concerns about security and safety.
In this regard, groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have urged the Bangladeshi government to halt the transfer of Rohingya refugees to the flood-prone island. Many experts have also indicated that the resettlement of Rohingya refugees on that island will make them vulnerable to extreme weather events and more isolated, which could lead to a whole new crisis.
On the other hand, in continuation of the series of suffering that the Rohingya Muslims live through, two devastating fires broke out recently in the refugee campsof Cox's Bazar. The first resulted in the destruction of more than 500 homes and 150 shops, in addition to the displacement of more than 3,500 refugees, and the second caused the demolition of four UNICEF schools that were designated for Rohingya children. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) described this fire as deliberate. This indicates that the security situation in the camps of about 1 million people has worsened in recent months.
It should be noted that the United Nations and its Human Rights Council have occasionally appealed to the Myanmar authorities to stop the systematic violence and violations of international law against the Muslim minority, but the Myanmar government was indifferent to that. Besides, the calls of the United Nations, and its efforts through its various organizations to contain the crisis and the repatriation of refugees have always been rejected by Myanmar authorities.
However, it seems that there is a new glimmer of hope as to the issue of Rohingya refugees, as Myanmar recently agreed, in the meeting held between Bangladesh and Myanmar, mediated by China, on January 19, 2021 in Dhaka, to return forcibly displaced Rohingya refugees to Rakhine State from camps in Bangladesh, and reiterated that potential returnees must abide by the country's laws and avoid engaging in "destabilizing activities" after their return.
The question that arises here is: Will Myanmar implement its pledge this time and take concrete steps to enable refugees to actually return safely and voluntarily, or is this nothing but a false promise and will not abide by it as was the case in the past? There were two attempts to start repatriation that failed in 2018, and at that time, none of the Rohingya expressed their willingness to return to Myanmar, citing the lack of a conducive environment for voluntary repatriation and insecurity in Rakhine State in Myanmar. Meanwhile, the Bangladeshi foreign minister described the last meeting as a "positive step" and said "they are cautiously optimistic" that repatriation would begin "in the second quarter of this year."
In any case, the Rohingya Muslims are still in dire need of the world's attention, and the international community should intensify its efforts to effectively resolve this crisis and not turn a blind eye to the atrocities and crimes committed against them, which the United Nations described as a campaign of ethnic cleansing and deliberate genocide.