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Monsoons could bring 'enormous deaths' for Rohingya refugees

04 April 2018

Tens of thousands of Rohingya fled Myanmar by sea following an outbreak of sectarian violence in Rakhine in 2012, some falling prey to human traffickers.

Rae, who was appointed Canada's special envoy to the seven-month-old crisis, makes that recommendation and others in his final report released today.

At least 670,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar and settled in makeshift camps across the border in Bangladesh since August 2017, according to the latest estimates from the United Nations. "In addition to accounts of shooting and military violence, I also heard directly from women of sexual violence and abuse at the hands of the Myanmar military and of the deaths of children and the elderly on the way to the camps".

"The notion that these are all issues of absolute sovereignty, to be settled exclusively between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh, misses the point that the UN General Assembly has recognized: the duty to protect the security of individuals is the initially the duty of states, but failing that, becomes a wider regional and, ultimately, worldwide obligation", Rae writes.

Myanmar's panel of worldwide advisers on Rohingya issues said on Tuesday that the coming monsoon season could bring "enormous deaths" as refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh are not built to withstand the storms.

Myanmar officials should also help the Rohingya return home, but under close scrutiny so the refugees would be safe from the military and mobs in Myanmar that is predominately a Buddhist country.

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Rae will additionally recommend that Canada and its allies implement targeted economic sanctions against individuals, organizations and companies that have broken worldwide humanitarian laws.

Myanmar has agreed to a visit by the UN Security Council after months of resistance, but it remains unclear whether ambassadors will be allowed to go to Rakhine State, the body's president said Monday.

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While Canada has already committed more than CAN$45 million in aid to the Rohingya, Rae suggested more was needed and CAN$150 million be given in the next four years.

But there have been concerns desperate migrants might start taking to the high seas again after mainly Buddhist Myanmar launched a new crackdown previous year that forced about 700,000 members of the stateless Muslim minority to flee to Bangladesh. He also reportedly states that the crisis should be discussed during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April as well as during the 2018 G7 summit that Canada will be hosting in May.

Although initially barred from entering Rakhine state, the epicentre of the Rohingya humanitarian crisis, Rae was able to travel to the region in February. They include 730 children below the age of 5.

Monsoons could bring 'enormous deaths' for Rohingya refugees