Rohingya persecution must end, MEPs have urged

10 November 2017

Written statement and apology to the North East in Solidarity with the Rohingya Campaign for not being able to attend their Women's Meeting on Saturday, 11th of November.

Dear sisters,

I’m really sorry to not be able to be with you today.

I have been horrified by the images from Rakhine state as I am sure most of you have been too, but as is all too often the case with genocide, this atrocity did not happen overnight. For decades, the Rohingya have faced terrible discrimination, being one – if not the most persecuted minority in the world. This humanitarian crisis has now reached unprecedented levels, with hundreds of thousands of hungry, destitute and scared Rohingya seeking refuge – we have a duty to not fail them.

Over many years, MEPs have adopted several resolutions condemning the mistreatment of the community, with Labour MEPs leading those calls. I have been particularly horrified by Aung San Suu Kyi turning a blind eye to this human misery, an attitude that has allowed the perpetuation of this violence. It was as a result of her release and the political reforms she heralded that in 2013, the EU lifted all sanctions, with the exception of the arms embargo, on Myanmar, after political reforms were put in place by the country after 50 years of a military dictatorship.

MEPs have called on Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1990 European Parliament Human Rights “Sakharov Prize” laureate, to end hostilities against the Rohingya minority.

In our latest resolution, approved in September, MEPs called on the "military and security forces in Myanmar to immediately cease the killings, harassment and rape of the Rohingya people, and the burning of their homes". They also called on Myanmar authorities to grant access to independent monitors “to look into allegations of serious human rights violations by all parties” and urged the “Commission and the member states to increase financial and material support for these refugees”.

The resolution also calls for the United Nations to adopt effective diplomatic and political measures against Myanmar, and for the EU High Representative and national governments to significantly increase their pressure on Naypidaw.

The European Parliament has wholeheartedly condemned the behaviour of the Burmese authorities and is calling on Bangladesh to keep the borders open. In addition, and as a member of the international trade committee, we clearly need to be using our trade policy as a leverage in the bilateral relations to greater effect. As a start a planned visit to Myanmar by a delegation of the international trade committee has been postponed indefinitely in light of the recent developments in Myanmar. This may seem a minor step but it sends an important signal to the local authorities that the sanctions that were lifted could be reapplied in the future.

In the resolution MEPs also discussed the possibility of revoking the Sakharov Prize should laureates stop respecting the values the award stands for, namely respect for human rights and protection of minorities among others.

Together with my Socialist colleagues, I’m pressing for the EU to develop a robust joined up strategy for dealing with situations like this around the world, to apply real pressure to stop the violence, and to work together with international partners and grassroots anti-racist organisations to bring perpetrators to justice.

Although I can’t be with you physically I am with you today in spirit and look forward to hearing your suggestions for how we could contribute to ending the violence and discrimination.

Do you think the North East needs its own voice in the EU exit negotiations?

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