While the security situation is far from stable in Myanmar, Reuters reports on Monday that authorities there are in talks with neighboring Bangladesh to resettle the roughly 500,000 Rohingya who have been fleeing a bloody crackdown against them since late August. There’s no specific timeline mentioned, although what’s clear is that families are still arriving at refugee camps in Bangladesh, seeking safety, medical help, and food.
The Associated Press, meanwhile, reports that Myanmar has not specified any restrictions on the terms of return. It’s unclear where the Rohingya — most of whom live in Rakhine state — will be resettled. Last week, the government of Myanmar said it would be taking control of the burned and abandoned villages for “development” — a land-grab strategy.
A piece on Quartz adds context to what might be motivating government actions there:
In 2011, Myanmar instituted economic and political reforms that led it to be dubbed “Asia’s final frontier” as it opened up to foreign investment. Shortly afterwards, in 2012, violent attacks escalated against the Rohingya in Rakhine state and, to a lesser extent, against the Muslim Karen. Meanwhile, the government of Myanmar established several laws relating to the management and distribution of farmland.
The Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim minority in the Buddhist-majority country have been marginalized for decades. They do not have citizenship rights and are viewed as foreigners by authorities. Almost half of the entire Rohingya population has fled in what the United Nations has described as one of the fastest-developing refugee crises in the world now.
Meanwhile, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said on Monday that so far this year, the number of refugees has risen by more than 2 million — with the violence in Myanmar being responsible for roughly a quarter of that number. This latest Rohingya exodus was triggered after deadly attacks on police posts in Myanmar. Security forces responded violently in what authorities there describe as an “anti-terrorism” operation, but the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing.
Reuters reports that Filippo Grandi is particularly concerned about “rising xenophobia” and uneven responses by the international community.
“International cooperation has been replaced by fragmented responses, resulting in restrictive immigration and asylum measures, even in countries with their own histories of exile and migration, and a proud tradition of welcome,” he said.
As of the end of 2016, there were 17.2 million refugees that specifically fell under the United Nation’s refugee agency mandate. This does not include the millions of displaced Palestinians or other internally displaced people around the world.
Grandi also noted that there are nearly 1.2 million refugees that need to be resettled but that there are fewer than 100,000 spots currently available — a 43 percent drop from last year. Tough refugee policies such as those of President Donald Trump’s administration don’t help.
On Sunday, White House officials set a historic low for the number of refugees to be accepted in the United States, capping the amount at 45,000 in the next fiscal year.
This piece originally stated that the White House set the cap for refugees at 45,000 last week. The White House actually officially announced this cap on Sunday.