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EU monitoring mission evaluates progress on human rights and labour rights in #Myanmar

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A high-level mission of the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) has returned to Myanmar as part of a broader engagement under the EU's Everything But Arms (EBA) trade preferences scheme.

A previous monitoring mission from the European Commission and the European External Action Service visited Myanmar from 28 to 31 October 2018, following deeply worrying developments highlighted in various United Nations reports, in particular as regards human rights violations in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States and concerns about labour rights.

This EU mission focused on several issues such as:

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−        Accountability for crimes under international law;

−        cooperation with United Nations special procedures and mandates;

−        unrestricted humanitarian access to conflict-affected communities;

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−        situation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and conditions for safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of refugees, and;

−        discrimination, hate speech, media freedom and labour rights.

The mission held constructive discussions with the government of Myanmar in Nay Pyi Taw, through an inter-ministerial working session led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and several bilateral meetings including with the Minister of International Cooperation and the Minister of Information. The mission visited Rakhine State, and met with the chief minister and state government, and the speaker of the Rakhine State Assembly. It also visited a Rohingya IDP camp and met with local Rakhine and Hindu communities.

The mission provided an opportunity for discussions with representatives of United Nations agencies including United National High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Development Programme and the International Labour Organization, as well as with humanitarian organizations. Moreover, the EU delegation met with the Myanmar Press Council, civil society, labour rights activists, trade unions and business organizations.

The European Commission and the European External Action Service will now analyze the findings from the mission. The EU will continue to engage with Myanmar and looks forward to seeing sustained and concrete progress in all areas of concern in the near future.

Background

Myanmar benefits significantly from its preferential access to the EU market under the EBA. Its duty free exports increased from €535 million in 2015 to an expected €2.3 billion in 2018. Main exports (2018 estimates) to the EU are textiles (over € 1.7bn), rice (over €140 million), precious stones (€130m) and footwear (€120m).

To continue to benefit from the duty-free, quota-free access to the EU market under the EBA trade preferences scheme, Myanmar must uphold and respect the fundamental principles enshrined in the relevant 15 fundamental United Nations and International Labour Organization conventions. In case of evidence of serious and systematic violations of human rights, the beneficiary country can have its trade preferences withdrawn temporarily.

The EU has stepped up its engagement with Myanmar (see the EU biennial GSP report of January 2018) in response to serious concerns about the deterioration of respect for human rights and the rule of law.

The EU has put in place since June 2018 targeted restricted measures against senior officers of Myanmar security forces involved in serious and systematic human rights abuses in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States.

The latest Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions adopted in December 2018 reiterated concerns about the situation in the country and invited Myanmar authorities to cooperate with the European Commission in the framework of the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme.

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Burma/Myanmar

Myanmar: Stop persecuting #Rohingya, MEPs keep urging

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MEPs renew their call on the military and security forces in Myanmar to immediately cease the killings, harassment and rape of the Rohingya.

Since August 2017, more than 646 000 Rohingya have fled for safety to neighbouring Bangladesh. The total number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is expected to exceed 1 million by the end of 2017, says the resolution adopted by show of hands.

The European Parliament renews its call "for an immediate end to the violence, to the killing, harassment and rape of Rohingya people and to the destruction of their homes by the Myanmar security forces". It also urges the Myanmar government to:

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  • Condemn unequivocally all incitement to racial or religious hatred and combat social discrimination and hostilities against the Rohingya minority;
  • work with international aid agencies, the EU and the UN to allow immediate, unhindered humanitarian access to Rakhine State;
  • end the segregation of the Rohingya population, and;
  • immediately cease its use of landmines and remove all mines already laid.

Targeted sanctions and extended scope of EU arms embargo

The EU and its member states, as a matter of urgency, should adopt targeted punitive sanctions against individuals responsible for perpetuating widespread human rights abuses in Myanmar, and extend the scope of the existing EU arms embargo against Myanmar, urge MEPs. They call on the EU foreign policy chief to significantly increase pressure on the Myanmar authorities and security services to end the violence and discrimination perpetrated against the Rohingya people.

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Burma/Myanmar

MEP Karim calls for #Rohingya to be given official citizenship

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On 12 December, Sajjad Karim MEP (pictured) urged the EU to push for the Rohingya be given official status as Burmese citizens.

In a speech during the European Parliament’s December plenary session in Strasbourg, Karim said that if the situation of the Rohingya was ever to be resolved, then citizenship for the displaced people was key to the solving the problem, also using the Pope’s recent visit to Myanmar - where he was prohibited from using the name ‘Rohingya’ - to highlight the extent of the problem.

Addressing the Parliament, Karim said: “For many, many years now member after member of the European Parliament have stood in this chamber and highlighted the plight of the Rohingya. It seems that those calls have fallen on deaf ears and today we arrive at a situation where even the Pope cannot go there and call these people by their true identity.

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“It is clear that while there is much that is being done by the European Union today, unless and until we insist on a regularisation and status for these people, they are going to continually find themselves in this position time after time.”

The British MEP also insisted - after previous calls - for a review of the suitability of Aung San Suu Kyi to maintain her status as a Sakharov Prize holder.

He expressed his concern regarding the appropriateness of Myanmar’s premier - Aung San - holding on to her award for her human rights record, following her inaction on and denial of the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Burma.

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Speaking in the Parliament, Karim said:“Madam representative [EU High Representative Federica Mogherini], when you speak about Aung San Suu Kyi - and I hear from many that there is a willingness from her to cooperate with us - the fact of the matter is this, that somebody who holds a prize given by this house - the home of human rights; the Sakharov Prize - if she finds herself unable to speak for her own people, then this house must review its relationship with her.

“Silence is no longer an option. It is not good enough, it must stop, she must speak out now.”

For the past 12 years, Karim has been one of the most active members of the European Parliament in raising the issue of Rohingya Muslims, including through various resolutions, parliamentary questions and has previously appealed for the European Parliament President, Antonio Tajani, to review Aung San Suu Kyi’s award back in September 2017, as well as writing to Representative Mogherini asking what steps the European Commission intends to take to help the Rohingya.

Sajjad Karim MEP’s plenary speech from 12 December.

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Burma/Myanmar

EU pledges additional €30 million for the #Rohingya crisis at Geneva donors' conference

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The European Commission has announced humanitarian and development funds in response to the influx of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh.

The European Union today co-hosted in Geneva a 'Pledging Conference on the Rohingya Refugee Crisis'. Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Commissioner Christos Stylianides has announced the EU's contribution of an additional €30 million for the Rohingya communities in Bangladesh. This comes on the top of over €21 million in overall EU assistance already allocated to Rohingya and host communities in both Bangladesh and Myanmar, bringing the total EU support for this year to over €51 million.

"Today, we stand united for the right cause. The cause of stateless people who have suffered for too long: the Rohingya. The Rohingya deserve nothing less than every other human being in the world. They deserve a future. We have a moral duty to give these people hope. Our humanitarian support will work to provide essentials like water, sanitation, food, healthcare, protection, and education;" said Commissioner Stylianides.

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International Cooperation and Development Commissioner Neven Mimica said: "Beyond the immediate response, we need to think of long-term solutions for Rohingya and host populations alike. Whilst the focus should remain on creating an enabling environment for safe and dignified voluntary returns of Rohingya to Myanmar, we need to also ensure that local communities, who are already facing enormous challenges, are not left behind and that we provide them medium and long-term development assistance. Any solution has to inevitably include political dialogue with all parties involved."

Commissioner Stylianides will travel to Bangladesh next week to meet with Rohingya refugees and visit EU aid projects in the affected areas.

Background

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The European Union is co-hosting the Pledging Conference on the Rohingya Refugee Crisis, with Kuwait, in Geneva on 23 October, in partnership with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Of the €30 million announced at the pledging conference €5 million are allocated for emergency humanitarian aid to meet the most urgent needs of the Rohingya population and host communities in Bangladesh; another €5 million to support the registration of arriving Rohingya and a total of €20 million to support early recovery and development actions in the country.

Registration of the Rohingya in line with international standards will enable to better target support, help ensure protection rights and facilitate return when conditions allow.

According to latest estimates, around 600,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh during the past two months, since the exodus began on 25 August following the latest spate of violence. This brings the total number of Rohingya in the Cox's Bazar area in Bangladesh to about 900,000.

Humanitarian aid projects, including EU-funded, are severely limited during the last weeks due to restricted humanitarian access in Myanmar's Rakhine State.

The European Union has been funding humanitarian programmes in Cox's Bazar since 1994 through international NGOs and the UN. Since 2007, the EU has allocated about € 157 million to Bangladesh; of which close to €38 million has been allocated for basic health care, water, sanitation, shelter, nutrition, protection and psychological support to the Rohingya.

In Myanmar the EU has provided since 2010 more than €76.5 million in humanitarian aid to vulnerable people in Rakhine state, including in the more isolated northern areas which Christos Stylianides became the first European commissioner to ever visit, earlier this May. In 2017, the EU is funding projects throughout Myanmar's Rakhine State to address some of the most urgent needs, including food and nutrition, basic health services, water, sanitation, protection and shelter for affected communities displaced by outbreaks of violence in 2012 and 2016.

More information

Factsheet on Bangladesh

Factsheet on the Rohingya crisis     

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