The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in Myanmar that has primarily lived in Rakhine State bordering Bangladesh in western Myanmar for at least 200 years. The Myanmar government and others in the country refer to them as “Bengalis” or “illegal migrants,” a reference to the nineteenth century migration of laborers and merchants from India under British rule. Denied citizenship for decades, they have suffered from discrimination, forced labor, and campaigns of violence, which the Irish Centre for Human Rights and others have characterized as crimes against humanity.
Over 230,000 Rohingya refugees have subsisted in squalid camps in Bangladesh for over 30 years, with minimal access to jobs, services, or citizenship there. Sexual and physical attacks against refugee women and girls have also been documented. Other nations in the region have not welcomed Rohingya refugees, holding them in crowded detention centers or literally pushing their rickety boats back to sea. The Rohingya thus represent one of the world’s most protracted and desperate cases of statelessness.
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