Anne Main MP appeared before the Backbench Business Committee in Parliament last week to request a debate on the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh and Myanmar. Anne and Rushanara Ali MP who jointly chair the all-party group on the rights of the Rohingya, called for the debate after UN special investigators said there was ‘an ongoing genocide’ against the Rohingya.
Mrs Main and Rushanara Ali held a debate just over a year ago on the same subject following Anne’s visit to the refugee camps in September 2017. During that debate, the UK government accepted that the actions of Burmese military figures against the Rohingya amounted to ethnic cleansing. One year on, following the UN fact-finding mission report released in September of this year, the events that took place in Rakhine state are now being described as genocide.
‘We have to continue to raise this issue in Parliament as we cannot allow this to be forgotten about’, said Mrs Main during the committee hearing. ‘Having been to the camps myself and having spoken to Bangladeshi soldiers and refugees, the crimes these people have had to witness and be subjected to is disgraceful. We cannot let this issue slip from our attention and we must keep up the pressure on our government.’
The UN report documented the harrowing crimes that have been committed against the Rohingya in Rakhine state and stated ‘the offences continue to take place today’. Chair of the fact-finding mission, Marzuki Darusman said those Rohingya remaining in Rakhine are at ‘grave risk’ and repatriating those that have fled would amount to ‘condemning them to a life as sub-humans and further mass killings.’
Following the debate, House authorities have confirmed that a debate in the chamber of the House of Commons will take place later this month, with a date to be confirmed as soon as possible.
Hearing the news, Mrs Main said, ‘I am extremely glad that the committee has listened to our pleas and those of the 50 other MPs who signed in support of this debate. The UK has an important part to play in this crisis, both as pen holder for Myanmar at the UN and with our aid and diplomatic support to the crisis.
‘Last year’s debate led to more money being contributed to the aid mission in Bangladesh which was great. But it also showed the strong will of MPs to the government on this issue. I am certain that this year’s debate will show that again.
‘The UK government needs to do everything it possibly can to hold those responsible to account. Everything must be done to achieve an ICC referral for Myanmar following the UN report. I hope this debate will add further pressure on the foreign secretary to achieve his aim of giving justice to the Rohingya and to facilitate a safe and voluntary return home for the Rohingya.’