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We cannot close our borders to people fleeing ethnic cleansing

  • Published at 12:01 am November 22nd, 2016
We cannot close our borders to people fleeing ethnic cleansing
The plight of the Rohingya people of Rakhine state is a full-blown humanitarian crisis, with untold numbers now heading towards the Bangladesh border to escape butchery. Make no mistake, the responsibility for their plight falls squarely and unequivocally on the Myanmar government, and no one else. However, be that as it may, now that the only safe haven for many is across the border in Bangladesh, simple humanity requires Bangladesh to do what it can to help them. We appreciate that this is easier said than done.  The Rohingya issue has complex ramifications, and in a country that is overcrowded, underdeveloped, and has limited administrative and security resources, it is understandable that the government must tread carefully so as to not be overwhelmed by the scale of the catastrophe unfolding next door. The government has good reason to be wary about an unchecked influx of refugees, and we understand their caution. It is, nevertheless, time to take a stand: Bangladesh has long prided itself on being a good global citizen, and opening our borders with Myanmar to allow for Rohingya Muslims to flee the persecution of the Myanmar military is the right thing to do. Let us never forget that when it was we who ourselves were faced with genocide, India opened its borders to us, taking in some 10 million refugees. We therefore ought not to turn a blind eye to the sufferings of the Rohingya today. But the government has a point, too. First, Bangladesh cannot shoulder the burden of these refugees by ourselves. So while the borders should be opened, it is imperative that the international community step up and provide all the support necessary for their food, shelter, and medical care.  More importantly, the UN and the international community must listen to the Bangladesh government, ensure that its concerns are addressed, and operate accordingly. But most importantly, the international community must put pressure on Myanmar to find a permanent solution to the problem that safeguards the rights of the Rohingya. In the absence of such a commitment, it is not fair to expect Bangladesh and not Myanmar to essentially bear the full weight of this crisis, for which we are not to blame.  Bangladesh must do our bit. But the world must also.