There are reports that Bangladesh and Myanmar have reached an agreement for the Royingha refugees in Bangladesh to be repatriated back to Myanmar. More than 620,000 Royinghas have left the Rakhine Province in Myanmar, many of them enduring unbelievable brutality in their flight. Amnesty International’s Director for Refugee and Migrant Rights, Charmain Mohamed characterized the proposed move as unthinkable:
“There can be no safe or dignified returns of Rohingya to Myanmar while a system of apartheid remains in the country, and thousands are held there in conditions that amount to concentration camps. Returns in the current climate are simply unthinkable.
“Myanmar and Bangladesh have clear obligations under international law not to return individuals to a situation in which they are at risk of persecution or other serious human rights violations.
“The fact the United Nations and the international community have been completely sidelined from this process does not bode well for ensuring a robust voluntary repatriation agreement that meets international standards.”
The details of the proposed repatriation have not been disclosed and there is little question that Bangladesh has been heavily burden taking care of the refugees with very little help from the international community. But how such a repatriation could be safely managed is difficult to imagine.
Refugees from the civil war in Syria and other conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa continue to enter Turkey and then try to enter the European Union (EU) through Greece. By agreement with Turkey, the refugees are held in five Greek islands in the Aegean Sea: Samos, Lesbos, Chios, Kos or Leros. The conditions in these refugee camps are deplorable and the processing of the refugees into other states in the EU is painfully slow. As winter begins, the lives of these refugees will only worsen, but there is little evidence that the EU will take the actions necessary to ameliorate the circumstances. Opposition to allowing more refugees is very strong in the eastern and central European states, and the political impasse in Germany hamstrings the most powerful government advocating better treatment of the refugees.
I highly recommend reading the book review in the London Review of Books by Steven Mithen on the new book by the Yale political theorist, James C. Scott, Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States. Scott’s argument is highly speculative and goes against the grain of the generally accepted understanding of human evolution. He asserts that the shift from hinting and gathering to agriculture was a profoundly negative development, leading to the possibility of centralized government and all sorts of negative health and social effects. The review is highly informed by Mithen’s own work on early human societies and his general knowledge of hunters and gatherers throughout history. It is a detailed read but well worth the effort.