On World Refugee Day, PHR affirms its dedication to ending human rights violations and protecting the rights of refugees and displaced people. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 800,000 people were forced to flee across borders last year, adding to a population of 15.2 million refugees worldwide. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) works internationally to address the root causes of displacement, investigating violence that causes individuals to seek refuge outside of their home countries. PHR has advocated for humanitarian aid for displaced and vulnerable populations, and PHR also mobilizes health professionals to assist individuals who seek sanctuary in the US after escaping violence or abuse abroad.
PHR is concerned that recent violence in western Burma will further contribute to the growing refugee population worldwide. Early this month, ethnic tensions in Arakan State fueled an outbreak of violence between Buddhist Arakanese, a recognized ethnic group in Burma that suffers human rights violations at the hands of the military, and Muslim Rohingya, a minority group that endures significant human rights violations and rampant discrimination. The Rohingya face statelessness in Burma, where they are denied citizenship and basic rights. They also face harsh treatment in Bangladesh, where many Rohingya have attempted to seek refuge. The Government of Bangladesh refuses to grant refuge to those fleeing violence in Burma, flouting its international legal obligations and casting entire families back to Burma, where violence and discrimination persist. Humanitarian assistance is a growing challenge for many in Burma displaced by the violence.
PHR thanks Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-NY) for calling attention to the humanitarian needs of the victims of the recent violence and for urging the Government of Bangladesh to provide refuge to those fleeing the violence in Burma. In recognition of World Refugee Day, PHR calls on all governments to grant refuge to those fleeing violence and to end forcible returns of vulnerable populations to situations of conflict, unrest, or disaster.