Vatican News
Ursula Mueller speaking to the media on April 17. Ursula Mueller speaking to the media on April 17. 

UN draws attention to plight of over 400,000 Rohingya in Myanmar

UN’s deputy relief chief says that 400,000 Muslim people still living in Myanmar’s Rakhine State continue to face a life of hardship and marginalization due to movement restrictions.

By Robin Gomes

While most of the attention has been focused on the massive exodus of over 700,000 Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar to Bangladesh, the United Nations says the world seems to have forgotten the more than 400,000 of the minority largely Muslim group who are living in “dire” conditions at home.

 “There is a humanitarian crisis on both sides of the Bangladesh-Myanmar border that is affecting the world’s largest group of stateless people,” Ursula Mueller, the UN’s deputy relief chief said on Tuesday. 

Hardship, marginalization

The unfolding tragedy in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar [Bangladesh] rightly captured the world’s attention, but we cannot, and must not, forget the plight of over 400,000 Muslim people still living in Rakhine State who continue to face a life of hardship and marginalization due to movement restriction,” she told reporters in New York after her 6-day visit to Myanmar earlier this month.

Mueller, who is the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator in the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), earlier spoke to UN news about she had seen inside Myanmar and about a meeting with some top officials.

Humanitarian actors need access

She noted that in her various meetings with authorities, she made it very clear that in order to be able to provide humanitarian assistance, humanitarian actors needed to have access.  In this regard, she complained about “bureaucratic impediments” and urged Myanmar’s  authorities to abide by international humanitarian law that asks for access for humanitarian agencies to bring assistance and protection to the people in need.

Restriction of movement

Mueller lamented the severe restrictions on the Rohingya that severely compromise their rights and obstruct their access to health, livelihoods, protection, education, and other essential services.

“When I listened to the people I met in IDP [internally displaced persons) camps, they had enormous security concerns,” she said, adding they shared with their problem with restriction of movement that prevents them from going to hospitals and schools.

Describing the situation inside the IDP camps as “dire”, Mueller said a clear signal has to be given to refugees in Bangladesh to return.  They need assurance that the situation in IDP camps is improving and that work towards reconciliation, peace and development is progressing.

Stability, peace and reconciliation

Mueller also spoke about her meeting with State Counsellor and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, with whom she discussed the importance of “ending the violence, of stability and peace and reconciliation.”

She offered Myanmar the support of the United Nations to address the humanitarian needs and the protection needs that are across the whole country, and advocated for access for humanitarian actors.

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18 April 2018, 15:50