A humanitarian crisis threatens to engulf one of the world’s most fragile countries
By Nuved Iqbal
Imagine being attacked by a group of people in your house and your loved one being choked to death right in front of you. You run to save your life, you reach the shore, you barely get picked up in a small boat which seems to be overpopulated, and proceed to the border – blood dripping, stomach aching and feeling overwhelmed with loneliness. A bare shelter is provided for you to live in. This is the situation all the Rohingya refugees are going through every day of their lives, fleeing from their home country and flooding into Bangladesh.
Growing up and spending most of my life in Bangladesh, I wasn’t exposed to all this as a young child. Now getting to learn about all this is hard for me to believe. Watching the beach I grew up in turn into a refugee camp with hard living conditions for the Rohingyas. Cox’s Bazar is the world longest beach without any stops, I remember going to this beach during the holidays and making fun memories.
This issue started more than a year ago, and the situation is getting worse overtime. Bangladesh has taken “730,000 rohingyas as of January 2019” according to UNICEF; this number is about double the population of Maldives – huge numbers for Bangladesh to take in. According to The Guardian, “Bangladesh has told the UN it cannot accept any more refugees from Myanmar,”. It is a great step for the Bangladeshi government to take responsibility for these people, but how much more can they take? Bangladesh was already overpopulated before this happened. Bangladesh’s population per square km. measured in 2017 was 1265 whereas Malaysia had it 96.3 per square km, according to the World Bank. These numbers show that Bangladesh is already very densely populated.
Both the Bangladeshis and Rohingya are suffering. As a Bangladeshi myself, it is tough to hear all these events happening. I am getting bad news on a daily basis from my home country. The Bangladeshi government is losing control over the Rohingyas. Because the refugees are desperate to escape their current living conditions, crime rates are likely to increase, reducing the security of locals. The plight of refugees themselves is terrible: children are becoming orphans, many refugees are being trafficked, and many are being taken advantage of. The Straits Times states: “The 22 had paid traffickers up to US$1,200 (S$1,630) each to get a place on a small boat for the dangerous journey”.
With all these issues, will Bangladesh be able to cope? The Washington Post states that “Bangladesh is once again calling for the establishment of “safe zones” for the Rohingya in Myanmar so that it can begin resettling some of the 1 million or so refugees in its care around the district of Cox’s Bazar.” The Bangladeshi government has reached out to countries like China and Russia for help as well. Improvement has not been seen yet. It seems that the situation will keep getting worse as long as other countries don’t stand up.
Some people might argue that Bangladesh doesn’t have any choice but to accept the refugees because Bangladesh and Rakhine State are right next to each other – the refugees can only afford to flee on foot. However, given how weak Bangladesh already is, richer, less dense countries like the US (GDP of $19,390.60 and population density of 35.6 per square km according to World Bank) could help by sending transport ships.
Countries that are big in size or have a high GDP per capita can take in more refugees. Poorer countries like Bangladesh are helping and doing their best, whereas America and Russia are huge in size and have a better economy but are not helping. They must do more.
- Ellis-Petersen, Hannah. “Rohingya Crisis: Bangladesh Says It Will Not Accept Any More Myanmar Refugees.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 1 Mar. 2019, www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/01/rohingya-crisis-bangladesh-says-it-will-not-accept-any-more-myanmar-refugees.
- BSS, Dhaka. “Myanmar Not Working as per Commitment on Rohingya Repatriation: PM.” The Daily Star, 25 Feb. 2019, www.thedailystar.net/rohingya-crisis/myanmar-not-working-commitment-rohingya-refugee-repatriation-pm-1707163.
- Hermesauto. “Bangladesh Stops More Rohingya Taking Risky Trip to Malaysia.” The Straits Times, 11 Feb. 2019, www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/bangladesh-stops-more-rohingya-taking-risky-trip-to-malaysia.
- Ibrahim, Azeem. “The Rohingya Are Not Going Home to Myanmar. Can Bangladesh Cope?” The Washington Post, WP Company, 20 Mar. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/safe-zones-for-the-rohingya-are-a-prelude-to-apartheid–and-worse/2019/03/20/6bbe7aea-4b30-11e9-9663-00ac73f49662_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.65eae7a7beb9.
- “Rohingya Crisis.” UNICEF, 26 Feb. 2019, www.unicef.org/emergencies/bangladesh_100945.html.
- “One Doctor’s Experience on a ‘Medical Mission’ to Treat Rohingya Refugees.” Public Radio International, www.pri.org/stories/2018-05-10/one-doctors-experience-medical-mission-treat-rohingya-refugees.