The Rohingya in Bangladesh: Playing Politics with a People in Crisis

Often called the most persecuted ethnic minority in Myanmar, thousands of Rohingya Muslims have made their way to neighboring Bangladesh in efforts to escape the violence and persecution in Myanmar. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), more than 500,000 Rohingya refugees have already crossed into Bangladesh and are living in temporary shelters there. This number, however, is about to increase as the situation in Myanmar becomes grimmer. International aid organizations have been keeping up their best efforts but are clearing lagging behind the overwhelming influx of people arriving in Bangladesh. It is clear that aid agencies are facing tremendous difficulty supporting a growing number of refugees with the limited resources available, but the Rohingya crisis does not end here. Since Bangladesh is not a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention, it considers the Rohingya as “Forcibly Displaced Nationals of Myanmar.” This means that they are not officially recognized as refugees and have fewer protections under international law. Moreover, it is election year in Bangladesh and the Rohingya have found themselves caught in the middle of a political tug-of-war game between the voters who support the Rohingya and the voters who do not. This may be troublesome for humanitarian organizations whose main goal is offering aid and not balancing out politically motivated moves and counter moves. The challenges are complicated enough without including politics in the picture.

Gabriela Escamilla, World Affairs Council Intern

(Photo Credit: NPR)