In Cox’s Bazar, there are hundreds upon thousands of people who have been forced by violence and persecution, to flee their homes in Myanmar. They have been stripped of their dignity and have lost a part of themselves, who they are, along the way, with many enduring abuse beyond our worst nightmares.
We cannot once again turn a blind eye to human suffering, to people living in an apartheid state where citizenship is unattainable, and where religious persecution has long been the status quo.
During claims of the first family being repatriated, a forced return to such an environment holds the same devastating potential as the Rohingya’s forced escape to safety just months ago. Who will protect the Rohingya upon their return? The army who killed, raped and mutilated their families?
And so the challenge to the international community: how do we create the conditions for the Rohingya to re-build their homes, without fear of persecution or physical danger?
This country’s response to that challenge goes to the essence of who we are as a people. I believe the British people are courageous, compassionate and generous. Our Government should be acting to live up to that idea of Britain at its best, but has too often failed in political courage or moral strength. The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is an opportunity to raise the crisis in an environment where donor countries are together with refugee hosting countries on a level playing field.
The UK is currently the pen holder in the UN on Myanmar, Singapore is the Chair of the ASEAN and the Commonwealth countries are leading on a global stage with respect to refugee resettlement. CHOGM therefore provides the perfect platform for Commonwealth countries to come together to highlight the need for greater action by everyone.
With this in mind, I firmly believe that the Rohingya Crisis should be on the agenda at CHOGM, to allow Bangladesh the opportunity of engaging with the wider international community.
I welcome the £59million in aid to support the Rohingya refugees, however it is an action that equates to giving a gunshot victim a sticking plaster while allowing the shooter to roam free.
Bangladesh, a country with 22% of its population living below the poverty line, has opened its borders to help the Rohingya refugees. We need to be given the opportunity at CHOGM to address the declining humanitarian space in Bangladesh, to prevent a further tragedy from unfolding during monsoon season. As an international community, we need to discuss the importance of improved, unfettered humanitarian access in Bangladesh and Myanmar.
CHOGM could be, and should be, the turning point that we need as an international community to get the dialogue back on track between Bangladesh and the donor community on long-term financing, and response planning, for the Rohingya in Bangladesh.
Creating the conditions for refugees to return to their homes will only be achieved through fierce, active diplomacy. The international community must have complete oversight of the conditions on the ground to once and for all say: ‘never again.’
Dr Rosena Allin-Khan is the Labour MP for Tooting