Hundreds of Rohingya refugees left stranded at sea
The British media is understandably filled with the effects of the pandemic on people’s lives in the UK at present and there are many who are suffering from its effects. Being in lockdown whilst living in cramped flat with no garden is extremely difficult and distressing. Those who are in insecure employement in the gig economy are also suffering financial stress. Care home and medical staff with insufficient or no PPE are daily risking their lives. Recession is inevitable the effects of which will hurt the poorest the hardest.
While there are many in the country who are suffering these things, there are those in other countries who are suffering more. In particular the Rohingya. They suffered cruelly under the Burmese military regime and had their villages burned down and were subjected to mass rape and murder at the hands of the Burmese. Hundreds of thousands fled to neighbouring Bangladesh and live in one of the largest refugee camps in the world.
There are now reports of boatloads of refugees refused entry into Burma because the Covid-19. Amnesty has received information concerning up to five boats thought to be carrying Rohingya refugees seen off the coasts of Malaysia and southern Thailand in recent days, with hundreds of people believed to be on board the vessels. Those in the boats are likely to be fleeing persecution in Myanmar or from overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh.
An Amnesty press release said:
On Wednesday, the Bangladesh Coast Guard rescued 396 Rohingya people from a large boat which had been turned back by the Malaysian authorities and is believed to have been at sea for two months. According to early reports, 32 people on the boat died at sea, but the figure is now thought to be almost double that. UNHCR – the UN refugee agency – has said that the survivors are severely malnourished and dehydrated.
On 5 April, another boat carrying 202 Rohingya people was intercepted by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency. Its passengers were brought to safety and are now in COVID-19 quarantine. 18 April 2020
Human Rights Watch noted:
Over 800,000 Rohingya Muslims are currently living in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh, the bulk of whom were driven out of Myanmar by a military campaign of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity that began in August 2017. As a result of that campaign, the Myanmar government and military now face accusations of genocide before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The estimated 600,000 Rohingya who remain in Rakhine State in Myanmar are subject to government persecution and violence, confined to camps and villages without freedom of movement, and cut off from access to adequate food, health care, education, and livelihoods. 18 April 2020
The genocidal policies by the Burmese have already inflicted misery on these people. Added to that, they are now subjected to further stress and misery as a result of the pandemic.
Sources: Amnesty; Human Rights Watch; The Burma Campaign; Arakan Project; Guardian