The stark reality is that there are still around 2,500 Rohingya who are stranded in the Andaman Sea. Their exact location is unknown. Their exact number is unknown and the condition of those on board is unknown.
The families they’ve left behind, their compatriots who have managed to reach shores, their extended families who are overseas are known as the ‘forgotten people’; the Rohingya, an ethnic group who Burma whole-heartedly, vehemently and violently reject as rightful citizens.
In recent days, some sovereign nations have made offers of support for the Rohingya though not all have been absolutely viable. Take for example Malaysia and Indonesia’s change of heart, when under mounting pressure from the international community, they said they would accept any Rohingya who arrived on their shores from the Andaman Sea. The caveat here being that no assistance would be offered in helping the Rohingya get to their shores. Most of the vessels had been abandoned by their human trafficking captains and crew and so many were and still are unable to find land. Further, the Indonesian and Malaysian Governments imposed a timeline of 12 months for the Rohingya to be resettled elsewhere. The concept of Burma repatriating the stranded Rohingya from the custody of Indonesia and Malaysia is a non-starter.
Then there was an offer from The Gambia to resettle all 8,000 stranded. If the vessels struggle to find land a mere 500km from their locations it is highly unlikely they will be able to navigate their wooden fishing boats through the Indian ocean all the way to a small port country in Western Africa.
An offer of search and rescue by the US was ruled out by Thai authorities who did not want foreign forces in their waters.
And then came the ASEAN meeting of May 29th. Many had hoped that this would be an opportunity to finally assert some pressure on Burma to accept responsibility. The meeting also had US, UN and other observers, however, with a lack of political gusto in terms of leaders, the Burmese spokesman cowered the UNHCR’s opening remarks into a corner. The term Rohingya was not used. There was no solution. There was no roadmap. There remains no solution.
‘It is essential that as members of a global community we continue to approach our local leaders to push Governments to lobby against and apply diplomatic pressure on Burma to reach a parity of human rights treatment and grant the Rohingya citizenship.’ is the message from Mabrur Ahmed, Director of Restless Beings.
Issuing a rallying call to activists and supports, Ahmed continued, ‘Our voices of concern and support must be continuous. The reality is there are still 2,500 stranded at sea. There are more than 100,000 facing daily misery in the camps of Sittwe. And there is an excess of 1 million people who have no home, no rights and no citizenship. We can not afford to remain silent.’
Restless Beings is a UK based international human rights organisation. We are currently working on interactive campaigns which supporters can be a part of. We are also working alongside a number of other individuals and organsiations to ensure that awareness is raised continuously and that the lobby for Rohingya rights is sustained.