2015 Rohingya refugee crisis

The 2015 Rohingya refugee crisis refers to the mass migration of thousands of Rohingya people from Myanmar (also known as Burma) and Bangladesh in 2015, collectively dubbed 'boat people' by international media.[1] Nearly all that fled traveled to Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand by rickety boats via the waters of the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea.[1][2][3][4] The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 25,000 people have been taken to boats from January to March in 2015 by human traffickers.[5][6] There are claims that around 100 people died in Indonesia,[7] 200 in Malaysia,[8] and 10 in Thailand[9] while on their journey after the traffickers abandoned them at sea.[10][11]

In October 2015, researchers from the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London released a report drawing on leaked government documents that reveals an increasing "ghettoisation, sporadic massacres, and restrictions on movement" on Rohingya peoples. The researchers suggest that the Myanmar government are in the final stages of an organised process of genocide against the Rohingya and have called upon the international community to redress the situation as such.[12]


Rohingya people in Rakhine State

The Rohingya people are a Muslim minority group residing in the Rakhine state, formerly known as Arakan.[13] The Rohingya people are considered “stateless entities”, as the Myanmar government has been refusing to recognise them as one of the ethnic groups of the country. For this reason, the Rohingya people lack legal protection from the Government of Myanmar, are regarded as mere refugees from Bangladesh, and face strong hostility in the country—often described as one of the most persecuted people on earth.[14][15][16] To escape the dire situation in Myanmar, the Rohingya try to illegally enter Southeast Asian states, begging for humanitarian support from potential host countries.[17]

On 1 May 2015, about 32 shallow graves were discovered on a remote and rugged mountain in Thailand, at a so-called "waiting area" for the illegal migrants before they were sneaked through the border into Malaysia. A Bangladeshi migrant was found alive in the grave and was later treated at a local hospital as told to Thai news agencies.[18][19] On 22 May 2015, however, the Myanmar navy rescued 208 migrants at sea, and upon inspection, confirmed themselves as having come from Bangladesh.[20] Protests by nationalists erupted in the capital, calling for the international community to stop blaming Myanmar for the Rohingya crisis.[21]

On 24 May 2015, Malaysian police discovered 139 suspected graves in a series of abandoned camps used by human traffickers on the border with Thailand where Rohingya Muslims fleeing Burma were believed to have been held.[22][23]


Bangladesh is home to 32,000 registered Rohingya refugees who are sheltering in two camps in the south-eastern district of Cox’s Bazar.[24] According to some statistics, more than 140,000 of the estimated 800,000 to 1,100,000 Rohingya[25] have been forced to seek refuge in displacement camps after the 2012 Rakhine State riots.[26] To escape the systemic violence and persecution in Myanmar, an estimated 100,000 people[27] have since fled the camps.[28] About 3,000 Rohingya refugees traveling to Southeast Asia from Myanmar and Bangladesh have been rescued or have swum to shore, while several thousand more are believed to remain trapped with little food or water on the boats floating at sea.[29]


At first Malaysia refused to provide any kind of refuge to the people reaching its shore but agreed to "provide provisions and send them away".[30] Later, Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to provide temporary refuge to the Rohingya.[31] Thailand said that it would provide humanitarian assistance and would not turn away boats that wish to enter its waters.[32]

Australian foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop said that Indonesia believed only 30 to 40 percent of those at sea were Rohingya, with the remainder mostly being Bangladeshi "illegal labourers."[33] The State Department of United States expressed its intent to take in Rohingya refugees as part of international efforts.[34]

The Philippine government expressed their wish to provide shelter for up to 3,000 "boat people" from Myanmar and Bangladesh. As a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the country abides by the rules of international law and will provide assistance to refugees.[35] Malacañang Palace also noted in a statement that this follows the country's harbouring and assistance to Vietnamese boat people fleeing from Vietnam in the late 1970s.[36]

The government of The Gambia also expressed their concern and wished to take in stranded boat people saying, “it is a sacred duty to help alleviate the untold hardships and sufferings fellow human beings are confronted with.”[37]

Bangladeshi prime minister Sheikh Hasina called the boat people "mentally sick" and said that they could have better lives in Bangladesh.[38] The Bangladeshi Government later planned to relocate Rohingya refugees who have spent years in camps near the Myanmar border.[39]

US president Barack Obama urged Myanmar to end discrimination against the Rohingya minority on 2 June 2015.[40]


  1. 1 2 "The Rohingya boat crisis: why refugees are fleeing Burma". Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  2. Hookway, James (22 May 2015). "Rohingya Refugee Crisis Likely to Ease During Monsoon, but Only Temporarily". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  3. "South-east Asia migrant crisis: Gambia offers to resettle all Rohingya refugees". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  4. Al-Zaquan Amer Hamzah; Aubrey Belford (17 May 2015). "Pressure mounts on Myanmar over Asia 'boat people' crisis". Reuters. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  5. "Malaysia tells thousands of Rohingya refugees to 'go back to your country'". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  6. "Bay of Bengal people-smuggling doubles in 2015: UNHCR". Reuters. 8 May 2015.
  7. "Rohingya migrants 'died in fight for food' on boat". The Pakistan Today. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  8. Langsa, Kate Lamb in. "'They hit us, with hammers, by knife': Rohingya migrants tell of horror at sea". the Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  9. "SE Asia migrants 'killed in fight for food' on boat - BBC News". Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  10. Ng, Eileen (25 May 2015). "Rohingya seek better life in Malaysia, but reality is stark". Huffington Post. AP. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  11. Rachman, Anita; Mahtani, Shibani (25 May 2015). "Indonesia Joins Search for Bangladeshi and Rohingya Muslim Migrants at Sea". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  12. "Campaigns of violence towards Rohingya are highly organised and genocidal in intent". Queen Mary University of London. 29 October 2015. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  13. Sydney, By. "Who are the Rohingya boat people?". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  14. "Rohingya boat people: Myanmar's shame". The Economist. 23 May 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  15. "Report documents 'Rohingya persecution'". Al Jazeera. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  16. "Why Burma's Rohingya Muslims are among the world's most persecuted people". CBC News. 25 May 2015. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  17. "Rohingya refugee crisis shames Southeast Asia | The Japan Times". Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  18. Star Online Report. "Bangladeshi migrants' mass grave in Thailand!". The Daily Star. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
  19. "Bangladeshi migrants' mass grave in Thailand!". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
  20. "The Latest on Rohingya: US envoy says address root causes". Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  21. "Monks, Activists Stage Protest Against Rohingya in Myanmar". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  22. "Malaysia finds mass graves of suspected migrants". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
  23. "Malaysia finds 'migrant' mass graves near Thai border". BBC News. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
  24. "Food cards for 32,000 Rohingya refugees". Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  25. "Myanmar's Rakhine State denies persecution at root of migrant crisis". Reuters. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  26. "Burma military chief claims refugees pretending to be Rohingya to get aid". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  27. "More than 100,000 'have now fled Myanmar'". Aljazeera. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  28. "More Than 10,000 People Fled Myanmar In 2 Weeks". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  29. "Migrant crisis — the boats and the numbers". Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  30. "Pushed back - Malaysia refuses safe haven to abandoned refugees". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  31. "The Latest on Rohingya: Australia won't take in migrants". The San Diego Union Tribune. Associated Press. 19 May 2015.
  32. "Indonesia and Malaysia Agree to Take Rohingya and Bangladeshi Boat Migrants". Newsweek. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  33. "Crisis refugees Bangladeshi workers: Indo". AAP. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  34. "U.S. Is Willing to Take in Rohingya Boat People". Time Magazine. Associated Press. 20 May 2015. Archived from the original on 20 June 2015. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  35. Esmaquel II, Paterno (18 May 2015). "PH open to sheltering 3,000 'boat people'". Rappler. Agence France-Presse. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
  36. Beh, Lih Yi; various, agencies (19 May 2015). "Philippines offers refuge to desperate migrants trapped on boats". Retrieved 31 May 2015. “The Philippines has extended humanitarian assistance to ... ‘boat people’ and had even established a processing centre for Vietnamese travellers in the 70s”, said Herminio Coloma, a spokesman for the president, Benigno Aquino.
  37. France-Presse, Agence. "South-east Asia migrant crisis: Gambia offers to resettle all Rohingya refugees". the Guardian. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
  38. "Migrants 'mentally sick', says Bangladeshi PM". The Malaysian Insider. Agence France-Presse. Archived from the original on 25 May 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  39. "Bangladesh plans to move Rohingya refugees to island in the south". the Guardian. Agence France-Presse. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  40. "Obama calls on Myanmar to end 'discrimination' against Rohingya". The Times of India. Retrieved 3 June 2015.

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