Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Rohingya Crisis

As the year draws to a close, the traumatic events of 2017 are still very raw for the Rohingya people. Hundreds and thousands of them have fled to Bangladesh since the summer, many wearing nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Their journeys from Myanmar were laden with misery and terror. Refugees witnessed pain and suffering on a massive scale – nightmares they will relive for many years to come. They spoke of rape and sexual violence, of young children being maimed and abused. They fled landmines and bullets and saw their loved ones die in cold blood.

By the end of November, the number of refugees in the Cox’s Bazaar district of Bangladesh had passed 836,000. Living in overcrowded camps with overflowing latrines and contaminated water, they face heavy rains and the 2018 cyclone season which threatens to wash away shelters and spread water-borne diseases.

Oxfam is on the ground providing safe drinking water, food and other essentials, and is ramping up its work before cyclone season hits.

In the meantime, the voices of those who have fled Myanmar are being heard – and their stories are harrowing.

Razida* (35) carries her 10-month-old son Anisul* through Unchiprang Camp in Bangladesh. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

“They burned my home and shot my husband dead,” said Razida* who spent six days walking to Bangladesh with her eight children. “The women and children ran away – we were safe, but the attackers surrounded the men and killed them so they couldn’t bring us anything. We had to even borrow money to cross the border.

"I left with all my children, I had to leave. How can I feel anything at all now? I’ve got shelter but no clean water and nowhere to shower. My children are sick and I am sick from worrying."

Fatima takes a rest in Dhokin Para school in Shah Puri Dwip after crossing over from Myanmar by boat two nights ago with her husband and young son. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

When Fatima’s house was burned down, she, her husband and their young son fled for their lives. Fatima was heavily pregnant when the family made their escape – but the lengthy journey was an ordeal for the expectant mother.

“Our house was burned down so we ran and we hid from village to village,” she explained. “I’m eight months pregnant and my feet are swollen. Yesterday when I arrived, I was in a bad condition. The locals fed me and gave me a wash.”

Elsewhere, others spoke of the horrific scenes they witnessed while fleeing to Bangladesh.

Setara* (47) with her daughter Nur*. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

Setara (47), who made the journey with her parents and seven of her children, said: “We had to walk for three days without food. My girl was almost dying, I thought she would die on the way. We passed so many dead bodies on the way.”

“When I left I only had my children and the clothes on my back,” added Setara, who also revealed how her eldest son had been beaten and had disappeared.

These are the voices of just some of the Rohingya people who have had to flee unimaginable violence in recent months. This new year must offer these refugees a sense of security and hope for the future.

Please give what you can to help mothers like Razida*, Fatima* and Setara* and the families they will do anything to protect.

Thank you.

Family reunification bill advances through Seanad despite Government attempts to derail

8 November 2017
 
The Government today attempted to derail the passage of a bill aimed at enabling refugees living in Ireland to be reunited with family members. Following a vote, the bill passed committee stage in the Seanad despite the government voting against it.
 
However, although having majority backing from across the political spectrum, Minister David Stanton, speaking against the bill, indicated that Government are planning to block further progress when it reaches the Dáil via invoking a controversial, little-known technical power which denies a “money message”1 for the Bill.
 
The Family Reunification Bill seeks to undo the unintended consequences of the International Protection Act 2015 which narrowed the definition of the family for refugees to include only a spouse and children under 18. 
 
This has had a devastating impact on the lives of refugees settled in Ireland. It has separated children aged 18 and over from their parents, divided siblings and destroyed extended family networks. 
 
The Bill was introduced by the Seanad Civil Engagement Group; Senators Colette Kelleher, Frances Black, Alice-Mary Higgins, Lynn Ruane, Grace O'Sullivan and John Dolan, who worked with Oxfam Ireland, Nasc and the Irish Refugee Council on the new legislation. 
 
Senator Colette Kelleher said; 
“We were happy to win the vote in the Seanad today however the government’s stated intention to use an obscure technicality to block the Bill’s passage in the Dáil is a devastating blow to those refugees who have already been recognised and settled in Ireland. This Bill would make it more straightforward for siblings over 18 and other immediate family dependents to apply to join those already granted asylum in Ireland.
 
This legislation simply seeks to restore the definition of family which stood from 1996 - 2015 and one which is more in tune with an Irish understanding of a wider, more inclusive one.
 
I know of refugee families in Ireland who are separated from their parents or older children. They long to have them join them in Ireland but haven’t been allowed due to the existing legislation. Sadly, the government isn't listening and has decided to thwart our attempts to change this. We plan to continue to advocate on behalf of refugees and push to change the law to make it simpler for family members to join their loved ones.”
 
Senator Alice-Mary Higgins said; 
“The small number of refugees settled in Ireland have often fled traumatic situations and endured distressing journeys to arrive here. Anyone starting a new life in a different country needs support and integration and the best way to do this is with your family beside you.
 
It is disappointing that rather than address this Bill on its merits, the government are planning to block its future progress via the controversial and rarely-used denial of a money message. This is not in the true spirit of democracy and could be seen as showing a disregard for the legislative process.
 
Ireland was co-chair the 2016 UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants and should be showing global leadership rather than indulging in evasions and excuses which damage people's lives. We urge the government to reconsider their position and face up to their moral responsibilities on family reunification."
 
ENDS
 
Daniel English 
Oxfam Ireland
086 3544954 
 
1. Money message: In order for Private Members’ Bills which are deemed by the Ceann Comhairle to involve a charge on the State to progress to committee stage in the Dáil, they need a ‘money message’ from the government. Historically, this mechanism has rarely been used. However, the denial of a money message has recently been used to block a number of opposition Bills from reaching Committee stage in the Dáil.
 

Irish Aid’s €2 million pledge to Rohingya crisis welcome - Oxfam Ireland

The decision by Ireland to pledge €2 million in aid to the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh is a welcome development Oxfam Ireland has said. The announcement was made at a special donor conference held in Geneva today.

Over half a million Rohingya refugees have crossed over to Bangladesh from Northern Rakhine State in Myanmar since August, and 2,000 more are arriving every day. This is a large scale and escalating humanitarian crisis.

Oxfam Ireland, CEO Jim Clarken said; “This announcement today by Irish Aid is extremely welcome and will help contribute towards the response to this unfolding humanitarian disaster. The Rohingya refugees are living in terrible conditions and need life-saving assistance now, including clean drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene, essential food and emergency supplies. More than 70% of the newly arrived have no shelter, and only 50% have access to safe drinking water.

Both refugees and communities hosting them need urgent support and Oxfam Ireland has been encouraging donors and governments to act immediately. Existing camps and the ones newly being set up are inadequate to deal with the massive influx resulting in many seeking shelter under open skies, roadsides, and in forest areas with little or no protection.”

Oxfam is responding now and has reached 180,000 people by providing clean drinking water, portable toilets and sanitation facilities, plastic sheets, and other essential supplies. In total, we are planning to reach more than 200,000 people.

To help Oxfam’s response go to https://www.oxfamireland.org/bangladesh

Ends

Daniel English
 
Desk: +353 (0) 1 635 0422
 
Mobile: +353 (0) 86 3544954

 

Race to prevent disease as thousands of Rohingya refugees arrive daily in Bangladesh - Oxfam

Aid workers are in a race against time to stop the rapid spread of disease as thousands of Rohingya people continue to arrive in Bangladesh every day. Oxfam warned that an outbreak of cholera would devastate the camps where hundreds of thousands of people are without safe water, shelter or enough food to eat. 

More than 50,000 newly-arrived Rohingya refugees have been hit by diarrhea, pneumonia, skin disease and acute malnutrition as aid agencies struggle to meet the needs of more than half a million people who have arrived from neighbouring Myanmar since August.

Oxfam engineers are working through torrential rain and floods to install water pumps and tanks, latrines and emergency shelters and have so far provided help to 180,000 people in the over-crowded, ill-equipped camps and ad-hoc settlements of Cox's Bazaar. 

Safe water, food and clean toilets are critical to preventing the outbreak of cholera and many other illnesses that have already affected people living in the camps. Currently, the camps are short of 25,000 toilets, increasing the risk of disease.

Enamul Huque, an Oxfam water and sanitation engineer who has worked for more than 25 years building water systems in the world's biggest refugees camps, including Zaatari, Bidi Bidi and Dadaab, says the crisis is one of the fastest population movements he has ever experienced. 

Huque said: “With more than half a million people having arrived in Bangladesh in less than six weeks, we are working as hard as we can to avert a possible cholera outbreak. Providing people here with lifesaving water and sanitation has been a huge challenge, especially along the Naff peninsula where torrential rains have helped to turn the mud tracks over hilly terrain into clay quagmires.” 

One woman who has recently arrived in the camp told Oxfam about her journey: “I came to Bangladesh about a month ago with my family. I walked for nine days to reach the camps. For three weeks I didn't have clean water or soap to have a shower or even to wash my hands. Yesterday, we got a toilet and a tub, and today we got soap and some food. I am happy, for the first time in weeks I can finally wash my clothes."

The latest shipment of aid dispatched from Oxfam's warehouse in the UK has provided 15 tonnes of water pumps, water tanks and material for construction of emergency latrines to provide water to 35,000 more people. A further two shipments planned will help Oxfam to reach 200,000 more refugees.

The total need for clean water each day is 58 million litres. The existing supply in and around the camps is providing less than a litre of water per person per day – insufficient to meet even their basic needs. 

In addition to providing clean, safe water and toilets, Oxfam and its partners have also been distributing emergency food materials including flattened rice, sugar and high-energy biscuits as well as providing hygiene materials like laundry and toilet soap to over 100,000 people.

Oxfam are urgently appealing for people to donate to their Bangladesh Rohingya Crisis appeal: https://www.oxfamireland.org/bangladesh  

ENDS

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson on 00353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas without shelter & clean water in flooded camps - Oxfam

27 September 2017

More than 70 per cent of the nearly 480,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh are without adequate shelter and half have no safe drinking water, Oxfam warned today.

Heavy rains and floods in camps have left people facing extreme hardships, and have slowed down the building of emergency shelters, clean water tanks, and the delivery of aid.

Paolo Lubrano, Oxfam Bangladesh’s Humanitarian Co-ordinator, said: “It is truly terrible to see the level of need there is among people here. People are living in make shift tents under heavy rains. Tens of thousands don’t have food or clean water. If they are very lucky they have some plastic sheeting to take shelter under – but most of the time families are huddled under sarongs. These people urgently need help.

“Most camps are flooded, including Katupalong and Balukhali where Oxfam works. For people forced to flee this is absolutely devastating – they have crossed one torrential river, just to be confronted by insecurity and pouring rain.

“Women and children are particularly vulnerable, sleeping under open skies, roadsides, and forest areas with little or no protection.”

A humanitarian flight carrying 15 tons of supplies left Oxfam’s warehouse on Friday. Materials include water pumps, material for construction of emergency latrines and water tanks. Two more humanitarian flights are planned with additional supplies.

Since August 25, nearly 480,000 Rohingya people have crossed over to Bangladesh’s South-Eastern districts resulting in a massive humanitarian crisis. Of these it is estimated that over 340,000 have inadequate shelter and about 240,000 have no clean water.

Oxfam’s response has reached nearly 100,000 people with clean drinking water, emergency toilets, water pumps and food rations. Oxfam is planning to help more than 200,000 people during the first phase of its response. Oxfam is also supporting the government and humanitarian partners to ensure camps newly established will meet the necessary humanitarian standards.

Due to the volatile and chaotic situation, Oxfam is concerned about abuse and exploitation of women and girls. Privacy, health, and hygiene for women, girls and nursing mothers are compromised, and measures must be taken to prevent any form of sexual violence.

Oxfam is urgently appealing for people to donate to its Saving Lives fund to support those suffering in Bangladesh and across the world https://www.oxfamireland.org/24/7-saving-lives

Spokespersons available

ENDS

Daniel English, Oxfam Ireland, 086 3544954