Rohingya exodus explained in maps and charts

August 25 marks five years since a brutal crackdown by Myanmar’s military forced more than 700,000 people to flee. Rohingya to flee Myanmar’s Rakhine state to neighboring Bangladesh. Today this number is more than one million.

The Rohingya are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group that has lived in Buddhist-majority Myanmar for centuries. However, Myanmar does not recognize them as an official ethnic group, making them the largest recognized stateless community in the world.

According to the United Nations, about 600,000 Rohingya remain in Rakhine State, while nearly 1 million of them live in neighboring countries, mainly Bangladesh. The UN has described the Rohingya as “the world’s most persecuted minority”.

Ethnic groups of Myanmar

In 1982, the Citizenship Act excluded the Rohingya as one of Myanmar’s 135 official ethnic groups and barred them from citizenship, effectively rendering them stateless.

As a result, Rohingya families are denied basic rights and protections, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation, sexual and gender-based violence and abuse.

Accordingly Citizenship ActCitizenship was granted to individuals living in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, who could trace their family residence back to 1823. This created categories of citizenship, but Rohingya were not included.

Nationalists in Myanmar believe that the Rohingya are Bengalis who immigrated illegally to Myanmar during the British rule in the Indian subcontinent.

The lack of reliable census data makes it difficult to accurately map the ethnic breakdown of Myanmar’s population of 50 million.

However, some of Myanmar’s ethnic groups include Bamar, Shan, Karen, Rakhine, Kachin, Chin, Karenni, Mon, Wa, and Kokang Chinese. Government does not recognize Rohingyas.


Continued expulsion of Rohingyas

The Rohingya have faced persecution by Myanmar’s military since the country gained independence in the late 1940s.

According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 300,000 Rohingya immigrated to Bangladesh in the 1990s. Violent conflict continued in Rakhine State in 2012 and 2015, displacing more Rohingya.

In October 2016, following an attack on some members of Myanmar’s border police, the military launched a crackdown on the Rohingya, blaming them for the insurgency. As a result, around 87,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh for asylum.

The most recent military operation began on August 25, 2017, when an armed Rohingya group attacked military posts in Rakhine. Myanmar’s military reportedly burned dozens of Rohingya villages and fired indiscriminately at unarmed men, women and children.

In September 2017, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the military operation in Myanmar was a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’.

In November 2019, the International Criminal Court granted a request for a trial to investigate crimes against humanity committed by Myanmar’s military.

Today there are 980,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Myanmar in neighboring countries.

About 936,000 Rohingya refugees live in the Kutupalong and Nayapara refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar region—camps that have become the largest and most densely populated in the world.


Life in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps

About one million Rohingya living in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps face difficult living conditions and are under constant threat of natural disasters.

The camps are overcrowded, lack adequate sanitation and hygiene, and are poorly lit.

Heavy rains triggered landslides and flash floods in refugee camps, displacing thousands of Rohingya.

In March 2021, a massive fire broke out in the camps, burning thousands of shelters and exacerbating the crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has put more stress on these vulnerable populations, particularly by increasing food insecurity.

Since May this year, the camps in Cox’s Bazar have also seen an increase in dengue cases, reported the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to WHO, there are 44 primary health centers and 90 health posts in the camps. Skin diseases and respiratory tract infections account for almost half of all medical consultations.


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