Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

During the past month, Bangladesh and the world have watched in horror as 400,000 refugees have crossed the border from Myanmar in the wake of an increase in military crackdowns among Muslim Rohingya villages. Many have lost family members in the violence and all have lost their homes. In the wake of the catastrophic events that have unfolded, Bangladesh has been forced to absorb a majority of the shock as ad hoc camps have been built along the borders. With 31.5% of its population already living below the national poverty line, aiding the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh may prove difficult for the Bangladeshi government.

Myanmar has made international headlines over the past month as images surfaced of entire villages being burned and destroyed. Beginning in August of this year, Rohingya militants executed a series of attacks in Rakhine State, where a majority of Rohingyas reside. The Rohingya people are known to be one of the most persecuted communities in the world. They suffer from systematic discrimination by both the government and fellow citizens because they are seen as illegal.

The government of Myanmar responded to the attacks with what is considered by U.N. officials to be “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Thus far, the operation has killed more than 1,000 and forced over 400,000 from their homes.

While Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said last week in a televised broadcast that the country was ready to welcome back the refugees, there has been skepticism about how welcoming the country will actually be, considering its history of Rohingya mistreatment. Furthermore, she stated that the Rohingya refugees would be allowed back in via a “verification” process. It remains to be seen what that verification process would entail.

Considering the uncertain future for the Rohingya refugees, organizations and countries have already stepped up to not only help the refugees but also the country of Bangladesh, particularly since the economic burden of hosting 400,000 refugees has been great. While Bangladesh has been focusing on its own impoverished citizens, the U.N. has estimated that nearly $200 million will be needed to aid the Rohingya refugees for a period of just six months. Bangladesh has urged the international community to put pressure on Myanmar to halt the influx of refugees, and it has seemed to help.

The U.N. has reported a drop in Rohingya refugee arrivals to Bangladesh since the end of September. While the International Organization for Migration claims that this is “too soon to say that the influx is over,” it is still a small victory for both Bangladesh and the international community. Likewise, Bangladesh has received significant aid from surrounding countries, including 53 tons of relief materials from India. Those materials included rice, pulses, sugar, salt, cooking oil, tea, ready to eat noodles, biscuits and mosquito nets. Additionally, this week, the U.S. agreed to give $32 million in humanitarian aid in the form of food, medical care, water, sanitation and shelter. This comes at a crucial time, as the Bangladeshi government has agreed to build 14,000 temporary homes. This aid will go a long way to support the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh while their future in Myanmar is still unclear.

Sydney Roeder

Photo: Flickr

Education for Rohingya Children

Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Muslims from Myanmar’s Rakhine State have been fleeing to Bangladesh with the hope of finding shelter from the extreme violence they have had to endure. As the minority group of Myanmar, the Rohingya Muslims are the populations facing discrimination and persecution from the Buddhist majority, which is defined by U.N. human rights officials as “ethnic cleansing.”

Rohingya refugees were therefore forced to escape their country to find safety in neighboring Bangladesh, which already housed almost 430,000 of those refugees. With the increasing influx of refugees fleeing into Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, the country has announced that it will create the world’s largest refugee settlement with the capacity to shelter 800,000 displaced Rohingya Muslims, including children.

According to UNICEF, 250,000 Rohingya children have escaped from Myanmar to the host community of Bangladesh, making up at least 60% of all refugees. According to the research-based advocacy project — the Arakan Project — education for Rohingya children has always been at risk, as most of them did not have the chance to attend school due to poverty factors and lack of schools. Additionally, Rohingya students are being barred access from universities in Burma. Now living in refugee camps in Bangladesh, some of the students are missing out on proper education, as secondary schools in camps are not allowed by the Bangladeshi government.

However, UNICEF has been working toward providing proper education for Rohingya children within the camps. On September 29, the organization announced that it will build new learning centers for Rohingya children in addition to the 182 existing centers in the camps. In total, UNICEF is planning to increase its numbers to 1,300 learning centers in order to provide education to the expected 200,000 child refugees coming to Bangladesh.

These learning centers will only provide education to children ranging from ages four to 14. Therefore, education for Rohingya children older than 14 is still compromised, leading to illiteracy for the majority of those students. Currently, there is an estimated total of 80% of Rohingya people being illiterate. UNICEF is working on developing additional educational opportunities for the future of Rohingya children.

Sarah Soutoul

Photo: Flickr