班尔奇

Rohingya refugees appeal to UN to keep Sri Lanka office open

Release time:2024-01-04 Publisher:South Asia Development

Several Rohingya refugees in Sri Lanka protested outside the UN refugee agency’s office this week due to the announced closure of its Sri Lanka office at the end of 2024. The refugees also submitted an appeal to UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday, calling for the agency not to abandon them without arranging permanent solutions.

The Rohingya are a majority-Muslim ethnic group from Myanmar. However, they are not considered one of the country’s 135 official ethnic groups and have been denied citizenship in the Southeast Asian country since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless. As a result of serious human rights violations and abuses in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States in 2017, which are principally committed by the Myanmar security forces, millions of Rohingya were forced to flee Myanmar and went to Bangladesh.

However, living conditions were still harsh in Bangladesh as they faced movement restrictions and food and medicine shortages after being moved to an isolated island by the authorities. According to the appeal form, these refugees who took a boat from Bangladesh to find a better life were rescued by Sri Lanka navy after drifting around the Indian Ocean Island nation’s northern coast. After a period of detention, they were allowed to stay in Sri Lanka temporarily but were unable obtain citizenship.

In their letter to the UN, the refugees write, “We appeal to the UNHCR not to abandon us and help us find a permanent solution in another country that will help us overcome uncertainty and not make us and our children permanently stateless.”

The Rohingya refugees also claimed that the monthly allowance provided by UNHCR is crucial for their basic survival since Sri Lanka is not a contracting state to the 1951 Refugee Convention. That means that they have no right to legally work in the country to meet the demands of living, healthcare and education. The refugees call on UNHCR to negotiate with Sri Lanka government to legally stay and not to stop their monthly allowance without making other arrangements.

A 2018 fact-finding mission report of the Human Rights Council called for the UN to assist Myanmar in meeting its responsibility to protect its people from genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The council also said that the UN needs to “establish a trust fund for victim support, through which victims can receive psychosocial support, legal aid and livelihood support, and others means of assistance.” However, according to UNCHR’s report in 2023, there is a funding gap of $289,416, which represents only 13 percent of the financial requirements for Sri Lanka.

Source: Jurist