Canada should show willingness to take in Rohingya refugees: Rae report
Ottawa’s special envoy to Myanmar will release a report Tuesday urging Canada to express willingness to welcome Rohingya refugees and implement sanctions against those responsible for the ongoing humanitarian crisis, according to people familiar with the document.
Those sources also say that that the special envoy’s report addresses “strong signals” that crimes against humanity have been committed in the country.
Since August 2017, roughly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s Buddhist-majority Rakhine state for neighbouring Bangladesh amid widespread violence that the United Nations has labelled “textbook ethnic cleansing.”
In October 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named former Toronto MP and Ontario premier Bob Rae as Canada’s special envoy to Myanmar.
“It is hard to convey in words the extent of the humanitarian crisis currently being faced in Bangladesh,” Rae wrote in an interim report released in December. “In addition to accounts of shooting and military violence, I also heard directly from women of sexual violence and abuse at the hands of the Myanmar military, and the death of children and the elderly on the way to the camps.”
Although initially barred from entering Rakhine state, the epicentre of the Rohingya humanitarian crisis, Rae was able to travel to the region in February.
Sources say that Rae’s final report will recommend that Canada declare its willingness to take in Rohingya refugees from both Myanmar and Bangladesh while encouraging other countries to do the same. Such resettlements, the report purportedly states, should not be seen as a solution to the refugee crisis, nor should it diminish the Myanmar government’s duties to take responsibility for the violent exodus and aid hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees in returning home.
Rae will additionally recommend that Canada and its allies implement targeted economic sanctions against individuals, organizations and companies that have broken international humanitarian laws.
According to those familiar with the report, Rae believes that Ottawa’s response to the crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh should be considered a “litmus test” for Canada’s foreign policy. He also reportedly states that the crisis should be discussed during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April as well as during the 2018 G7 summit that Canada will be hosting in May.
Although Myanmar’s government has publicly expressed a willingness to resettle those who have fled the country, years of systematic violence at the hands of Myanmar security forces and Buddhist mobs means that such plans have been met with widespread skepticism by Rohingya refugees.
Many of those refugees are currently residing in sprawling and overcrowded Bangladeshi camps that threaten to be inundated with heavy rains -- potentially overwhelming sanitation facilities and leading to outbreaks of water-borne diseases -- during the upcoming monsoon season, which begins in May.
In addition to the more than $37.5 million in humanitarian assistance committed to the region, on March 16 the Canadian government announced an additional $8.15 million in funding for “humanitarian partners to help improve the lives of Rohingya refugees and address some of the challenges they may face in Bangladesh” during the monsoon season.