Naz Shah MP

Labour MP for Bradford West

Rohingya Crisis


Rohingya Crisis Debate - Westminster Hall 


It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods) on securing the debate.

It is imperative that we all make the effort to continue raising the plight of the Rohingyan people—those displaced and those still living in Myanmar—who face the continued threat of persecution and violence. That includes a woman having her unborn baby cut out from her and killed, babies snatched from their mothers and thrown into fires and burned alive, children beaten to death with shovels, children forced to watch as family members are tortured, raped and killed and mass rape of girls as young as five.

If we stop to contemplate those atrocities even for a moment, we can be in no doubt that what has taken place is ethnic cleansing and genocide. The US and the UN have both said that. The British Government are yet to recognise it. I have said it before and I will say it again: 640,000 people have been deliberately driven ​from their homes, with many killed or tortured. I fear that the international community is failing these people, who are stateless within their own country and do not have the necessary level of aid and support as refugees.

The thing I want to focus on and that I am deeply concerned about, like my colleagues, is the Rohingyan refugees’ potential return to Myanmar. A proposed return without secured political and human rights may create a perception of progress while in reality abandoning the Rohingya people to a life of normalised terror. With the current situation and the animosity, this is no time to be talking about simply returning the Rohingya to Myanmar. If return is on the table, what exactly are they returning to? Without rights and acceptance, what difference will it make? How can we expect people to return when they are dehumanised and persecuted daily?

It is far too early to be returning people to uncertainty. Early surveys indicate that only 10% would wish to return at this point anyway. The 1951 UN refugee convention is absolutely clear about the forced return of refugees and the conditions of safe return that would be required. That is an absolute principle within international law, and any forcible repatriation must be rejected by the entire international community.

Last time I spoke on this subject, I pleaded with the Government to look seriously at more targeted sanctions against the Burmese military and to convince the Burmese military—not just the leadership—to accept what is going on and change the status quo. So far, all we have done within Europe and the UN is to stop our military training and deny visas to military personnel. That is simply not enough.

Unless we sanction the military and carry out these investigations, we are not telling the world that we are serious about this issue.

The Myanmar military and leadership need to understand that actions have consequences and repercussions, and that we as an international community will not stand by and allow this to continue. They need to understand that Great Britain and those who have spoken today have been heard and listened to and that these people’s stories are reaching our shores. They are the stories of tears that my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Dr Allin-Khan) spoke about, of women who are homeless and of children who will know no certainty for years to come and have no future. They have come out of the chip pan and into the fire, and they are still burning—literally. This is not something we can accept or stand by and watch. We must be doing more.

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