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Rohingya Muslims demand safe return to home after 6 years of exodus

Rohingya refugees rally in Ukhi, Bangladesh, on August 25, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Rohingya Muslim refugees demand their safe return to their homeland, Myanmar, on the sixth anniversary of the violence that forced them to flee to Bangladesh.

In 2017, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar for neighboring Bangladesh and India to escape the brutal attacks by military forces in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state.

The Rohingya case is now the subject of separate proceedings before the International Criminal Court and for "acts of genocide" before the International Court of Justice.

Bangladesh is home to around a million members of the Muslim community, who, for decades, have been denied citizenship, rights, access to services, and freedom of movement.

Several protests were held at the camps near the Myanmar border on Friday.

Around 10,000 refugees were present at the largest one, according to the Armed Police Battalion, which is tasked with maintaining security in the camps.

"We demand citizenship back from Myanmar. It's nothing new, we were and are the citizens of Myanmar," Kamal Hussain, a Rohingya community leader, told AFP.

"They are slowly trying to wipe out our name from the history of Myanmar."

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The refugee population relies almost entirely on food aid as they are not allowed to leave the camps or formally work.

Since March this year, the World Food Program assistance to a million refugees was cut by a third to just $8 per month due to a funding shortfall.

"As humanitarian conditions in the world's largest refugee settlement worsen... the challenges surrounding this protracted crisis continue to increase," the UN refugee agency said in a statement this week.

Observers warned about the food ration cuts that can have “serious and far-reaching consequences,” for nearly 1 million Rohingya camp residents.

Save the Children charity also warned on Thursday that the health and well-being of more than half a million children are at risk due to recent drastic cuts in food assistance,

“Even before the first food ration cuts, 45 percent of Rohingya families were not eating a sufficient diet and malnutrition was widespread in the camps, with 40 percent of children experiencing stunted growth,” the charity said.

In a statement earlier this week, Human Rights Watch said that the UN Security Council’s “inaction and government aid cutbacks are leaving Rohingya in even more desperate straits."


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