The Rohingya Refugee Crisis: Will 2019 See A Move Back To Myanmar?

For many Rohingya’s, the year 2018 was a desperate year. Two thirds of the minority group’s population living in the Rakhine state of Myanmar made the journey into neighbouring Bangladesh. The focal point of said migration, Cox’s Bazar, holds an insurmountable number of refugees, totalling more than a million. It is now labelled as the worlds largest refugee camp. 

The current crisis facing the Rohingya minority group in Myanmar stems from violent treatment by Myanmar’s security forces. Those that have fled Myanmar since disruptions began in 2017, to seek safety and shelter in Bangladesh, now face the prospect of returning back to Myanmar as both governments have agreed to facilitate the return of the refugees.

Bangladesh is closing its once open doors, meaning Rohingya’s still living in the dangerous Rakhine state no longer have the most viable route of migration available. In late February this year, Bangladesh foreign secretary Shahidul Haque said, “I regret to inform the council that Bangladesh would no longer be in a position to accommodate more people from Myanmar.” This development adds pressure to the ongoing situations in the Rakhine state, still the home of several hundred thousand Rohingya people. The group face serious restrictions on their movements and no way to obtain citizenship and is also face to face with what the UN has described as ethnic cleansing and possible genocide. It is still yet to be seen if there will be any form of accountability for Myanmar’s security forces in regards to their treatment of the Rohingya. 

In the final month of 2018 some traction was gained to hold security forces accountable for these crimes. Independent surveys of the crisis carried out have concluded that there is “strong evidence that crimes against humanity and genocide were committed.”  Many are stating the need for Myanmar’s top military generals, including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, to be investigated further.

For Rohingya refugees potentially resettling in their former home of Rakhine, responsibility lies with the government of Myanmar to create conditions conducive to safe returns. The UNHCR has said that it “supports the voluntary and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees in safety and in dignity to their places of origin or choice.” However, at present the organization advises that it does not believe the current conditions of Rakhine are able to support the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of refugees from Bangladesh. 

The UNHCR state that they are committed to supporting the Government of Myanmar’s efforts to create conditions that facilitate the return of Rohingya refugees under the terms of the tripartite Memorandum of Understandig (MoU) which was signed by UNHCR, UNDP and Myanmar authorities in 2018.

The year 2019 may not see a move back to Myanmar for the Rohingya, but if the government of Myanmar take the right steps we may see freedom of movement, recognition of basic rights and a path to citizenship for Rohingya in Myanmar looking more promising in the year 2020.