Developments in the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Tom Lantz, Student Contributor

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On Friday February 8th alumnus Adam Nelson returned to campus to present and discuss the growing Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh. Nelson is an international project manager for the National Democratic Institute. He recently returned from a trip to Bangladesh to review the refugee crisis and aid in election monitoring.

There are currently 1.1-1.3 million Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh—the largest refugee population in the world—and the numbers keep rising. The mostly Islamic people are fleeing persecution from the violent Buddhist government of Myanmar. Their aid workers are over-worked, and the refugees have little to no say in their own governance. Nelson was told that aid workers were surprised that the conditions in the refugee camps were not worse than their current conditions. That being said, the camps are largely disorganized, and one hundred babies are born every day in the camps where the populations are already about 50% juvenile. There is a fear of the rise of radical Islamic faith among the young male refugees.

There is also a fear that the refugees will soon be fighting for resources with the locals. The refugees have already taken many of the lower paying unskilled jobs. Nobody seems to have a plan. Bangladesh has widely been accepting of the refugees that have been coming since the ‘70s. The current political party in control of Bangladesh came to power on a platform that wanted to work closely with the refugees and provide large amounts of aid. Most of the aid is currently coming from U.S. and British humanitarian organizations.

Unfortunately, the refugees cannot safely return to Myanmar and most have no desire to do so. Myanmar is a largely militarized state that has long persecuted the Rohingya people. The government made it hard for the people of Rohingya to leave their region and have passed laws limiting their rights to citizenship. Many of the people still in the Rohingya region live in fear. The military uses forced labors for its many projects and has destroyed many of the refugees’ villages.

This is not a crisis that will go away any time soon. The government of Myanmar has become a radical Buddhist state and has blamed the country’s many issues on the Islamic people living in the Rohingya region. The Rohingya refugee crisis will likely be the predominant humanitarian crisis for many years to come.