Last week, Pope Francis called on the world to take action to end the mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and the violence that they have faced.
Since the end of August, over 600,000 Rohingya people have fled from Myanmar into Bangladesh. This has naturally placed a significant strain on Bangladesh’s limited resources and created a difficult environment in the camps. I saw this first-hand on a recent Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Delegation visit to Bangladesh.
Refugees in the camps have limited water supply, no possessions and face long queues for food and shelter. Having arrived in Bangladesh with physical and psychological injuries due to the horrors that they have faced, the refugees are extremely vulnerable and some have even become victims of sexual exploitation. This situation is made all the more uncomfortable and unacceptable when we realise that over half of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children, many of whom have lost one or both of their parents.
Aid workers and humanitarian organisations like the United Nations Refugee Agency have provided vital support in such difficult times. As a result, the International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt MP recently announced that a further £12m of UK aid will be sent to provide the Rohingya refugees with food, drinking water and shelter among other resources. While I welcome this offer, much more needs to be done. I believe that there will be no quick solutions and so the UK has an important role to play in continuing to pledge financial support whilst building the political will for a lasting solution in the region, such as giving the Rohingya full citizenship in Myanmar. This crisis has gone on for far too long now. Urgent action is needed.