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October 9, 2017 | by  | in News |
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Calls for more support for Rohingya refugees

New Zealand’s role in providing humanitarian assistance abroad and dealing with international refugees is again under scrutiny, as the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar worsens.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. The Myanmar Government does not consider the Rohingya to be citizens, instead holding the view that they are living in the country illegally. Myanmar’s paramilitary forces have systematically persecuted Rohingya to drive them from their homeland, forcing many to escape to neighbouring Bangladesh. Since August over half a million Rohingya have fled the country, and many now live in refugee camps.

Rohingya refugees who have already settled in New Zealand are calling on the government to increase its support for those affected. On September 17, a group of Rohingya staged a demonstration in Aotea Square, in an attempt to put pressure on government. The protestors said that New Zealand should take Rohingya refugees directly from the Bangladeshi camps, rather than put them on a waiting list.

New Zealand’s refugee quota is set to increase to 1,000 refugees per year, coming into effect after 2018, but new refugee crises like the Rohingya will likely spur calls to increase the quota further.

While the government has not confirmed whether it would considering re-raising the quota, it has sought to assist the Rohingya politically. A spokesperson from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Salient that New Zealand has “called on the Myanmar Government to ensure that appropriate humanitarian access is provided to all affected communities.”

Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee announced on September 7 that the Government would provide $1.5 million to the international Red Cross for humanitarian assistance  to help the Rohingya living in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

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