UN Special Envoy Olivier De Schutter has warned that Myanmar’s displaced, stateless Rohingya population taking refuge in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar could soon become the ‘new Palestinians’.
He gave this warning in an interview with Britain’s the Guardian after recently visiting the Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar. Referring to the Rohingya camps as an “absolutely dire” situation, he called for swift action on the neglected crisis.
The UN Special Envoy on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Olivier De Schutter, said Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are at risk of becoming the ‘new Palestinians’. They are stuck in a prolonged and increasingly neglected crisis, he says.
Schutter said, “The nearly 1 million people living in overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar should be given the right to work in their host country, Bangladesh. Forcing them to depend on dwindling international aid is not sustainable at all”.
Describing the condition of the Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar, he said that the situation there is ‘very dire’. He didn’t get much chance to talk to people in ‘such desperate circumstances’. Schutter said refugees fleeing a brutal crackdown by Myanmar’s military in 2017 have been isolated from locals. They are kept in dirty, cramped shelters. More than five years ago, Myanmar’s violence against the Rohingya sparked international outrage.
“If you combine that with recent high food price inflation, it means refugees’ caloric intake and nutritional value will drop significantly compared to the beginning of the year”, Schutter said. Malnutrition and under nutrition rates for children will increase significantly and continue to do so.
But the worst part is that these people are completely dependent on humanitarian aid to survive. They are prohibited from working. He pointed out that they are stuck in one place. Schutter said that in the Rohingya camp, people spend their days lying down and being lazy.
As a result, gender-based violence is on the rise. The camp has security issues. Armed gangs control drug trafficking across the Myanmar border, leading to shootouts in the evening.
This matter is very worrying. And the desperation of these families should not be ignored.
Residents there are constantly facing hostile weather conditions. There is a rule that they can’t build any concrete structure. So they have to cope with the situation under the shelter of bamboo and tarpaulin. Schutter said that the Rohingya camp shelters are in a very dangerous situation.
UN Envoy said the Bangladesh government fears that allowing the Rohingya to work will encourage them to stay here longer. This will increase pressure on public services and reduce employment opportunities for others.
Describing this idea as wrong, he said, if they can work, they will pay taxes, they can start small businesses that will create employment opportunities for others. He said that all people have the right to earn a living.
Envoy said Myanmar must be held accountable for creating the conditions under which the Rohingya can be safely repatriated. For the time being, no one thinks that situation has arisen.
The special envoy said the Rohingya crisis has fallen far below the radar. “Otherwise these people will become the new Palestinians in 10 years,” he said, stating that more international attention is needed in this regard.