Help us: Displaced Rohingya Muslims ask for more than financial aid

Andrew Do (far right) with participants of the walkathon in Princes Park. Picture supplied

By MAHIA RAHMAN

The Australian Government should interfere politically in the Rohingya crisis, a representative of the group in Australia says. 

Australian Burmese Rohingya Organisation public affairs head Mr Habiburahman said the efforts of local fundraising groups were much appreciated, but much more needed to be done at government level. 

Mr Habiburahman, a refugee who came boat to Australia in 2009, urged the Australian Government not to refuse other refugees who came here by boat. 

Temporary visas, when they are granted to Rohingya refugees, were barriers to successful integration into society and being able to contribute to Australia, he said.

Mr Habiburahman. Picture: Mahia Rahman

“There are many Rohingyas living in Australia … on bridging visas. Once those visas finish they don’t know what will happen to them because by law they are asked to go back to their country,” he said.

Since 2017, many Rohingyas, a Muslim minority community in Burma, have fled communal violence,  with an estimated 720,000 refugees escaping from Rakhine province to neighbouring Bangladesh.

The violence, which has resulted in the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis, was described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In response to the crisis, the Victorian Vietnamese community – VCA Victoria – held a fundraising walkathon in Melbourne CBD earlier this month to help.

They raised $100,000 to add to Australia’s donation to the UNHCR’s Rohingya emergency appeal.

VCA Victoria director of finance and youth initiatives Andrew Do said while the fundraising was important, the group had “a bigger objective to promote multiculturalism and a sense of solidarity”.

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Rohingya women and children are seen waiting to be treated last month in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

“We (Vietnamese refugees) had to flee once when we were persecuted by our own government and find safety and a home somewhere else. It’s the exact situation Rohingya people are facing at the moment.”

Mr Habiburahman said he greatly appreciated the efforts of the Vietnamese community.

“It will help send a clear message to locals and other communities why we are trying to raise funds and who we are trying to help,” he said.

“Although the [financial] contribution of each community is important to raise public awareness, it is not enough.”

According to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in 2018 Australia was the third-largest donor to the displaced Rohingya communities in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

“Australia has already provided $70 million to the crisis through Australian aid agencies and UNHCR, but financial aid serves a temporary purpose,” he said.

The UN’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, released last week, called for Myanmar’s military, which holds a quarter of all seats in the parliament, to be completely removed from politics.  

The report also laid out in detail human rights violations by Myanmar’s military towards Rohingya Muslims.

“Without international [political] interference, the Burmese government will not work with the UN and we won’t see any improvement on ground for even the next 10 years,” Mr Habiburahman said.