Complications Increase as the Rohingya Settle into Bangladesh
Being called one of the direst refugee crises in the world today, the persecuted Rohingya population of Myanmar has now largely relocated to Bangladesh. While the flow diminishes, there are still consistent arrivals of refugees.
Although this is not the first influx of Rohingya refugees, it is by far the largest, with around 630,000 people. This number, along with approximately 200,000 already in Bangladesh, brings the total to around 800,000 total refugees housed in the small Cox’s Bazar region.
The stories told at these camps are haunting, recounting various atrocities committed by the Burmese military. But while many feel safer in Bangladesh, their strife has not ended.
Around 60% of the refugees are children. And due to the suddenness and enormity of the crisis, malnutrition, disease, lack of security, and lack of education have become pressing issues.
Around 7.5% of these children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, with around 40,000 at risk of starvation. Another alarming problem is the exploitation of women and children with the rise of active sex and human trafficking rings.
There are also more general problems with the rise of the enormous refugee camp established to house the Rohingya. While the Bangladesh government and international community scramble to raise funds, a lack of infrastructure poses the threat of a potential health disaster.
The millions of liters of water needed every day are hard to provide. Proper sanitation is also lacking; most refugees live in canvas tents with no latrines to dispose of waste.
The result has been waste slipping into water, which is then used for drinking, and therefore heightening risks of disease outbreaks.
This, in conjunction with a lack of medics, has prompted an Australian volunteer organization to begin training refugees in basic medical care.
This is also a problem for the Bangladeshi government. While they have generously taken these refugees in, they are now trying to quickly solve the complex crisis.
On the 23rd of November, Bangladesh drew harsh criticism for signing a deal with Myanmar’s government, which would arrange for the gradual return of the Rohingya. This has been viewed as a returning of the people to potential genocide.
But it will likely be difficult to relocate the people back to Myanmar. As such, other plans have been made to internally relocate the Rohingya. These plans have also drawn criticism, as they involve moving 100,000 refugees to a flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal, 39 miles away from the mainland.
The Bangladesh military claims land development projects could make the island habitable. However, international observers worry it will simply endanger the Rohingya people.
Bangladesh faces other, more political complications tied to the situation as well. Most people in the country support bringing in the Rohingya, but those in Cox’s Bazar worry about the impacts.
Concerns over job security, wages, educational needs and security have all been raised. There are also factions within the country that worry that the large Muslim population could potentially fuel militancy within Bangladesh.
This concern has become more outspoken as Bangladesh finds itself moving towards other neighboring Muslim countries in response to Chinese and Indian interests.
Both China and India have explicit economic and geopolitical interests in Myanmar, and have been quiet about criticizing the government’s campaign against the Rohingya. This has placed Bangladesh against their foreign policy interests.
It is difficult to guess what future policies, both in Bangladesh and abroad, will hold for the Rohingya. But with health, education, security and ideological concerns, it is apparent that the crisis will have no simple fix. Perhaps with increased funding, the Rohingya’s plight might be lessened. But their future is—at best—unclear.