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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7833


Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle) (11:01): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes:

(a) that Saturday, 25 August 2018 marks one year since close to 700,000 Rohingya—mostly women and children—were forced to begin fleeing their homes in Rakhine State, Myanmar;

(b) that the Government of Bangladesh leads the humanitarian response and has kept its borders open to Rohingya refugees while the Bangladeshi people of Bangladesh continue to show tremendous generosity and hospitality in the face of a massive influx;

(c) that since September 2017, Australia has contributed $70 million to the Rohingya crisis response and continues to have an important role calling for an outcome which allows Rohingya people to fully exercise their human rights;

(d) Australia's support for the implementation of recommendations from the report of the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State; and

(e) the Australian community's generosity in providing financial support to the crisis; and

(2) urges the international community to:

(a) support Bangladesh to provide an appropriate, principled humanitarian response to the needs of displaced and affected communities;

(b) ensure humanitarian aid is delivered where it is needed in accordance with fundamental human rights; and

(c) work with all parties in the pursuit of inclusive peace and reconciliation, and to implement the recommendations of the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.

I rise today to recognise the first anniversary of the humanitarian emergency arising from one of the most horrific cases of ethnic cleansing we have seen in recent times. One year ago this week, the Rohingya people started their long and often dangerous journey to flee persecution, the destruction of their homes and property and the horrific violence occurring across the Rakhine state in Myanmar. They fled to Cox's Bazar in neighbouring Bangladesh. Within months, 700,000 Rohingya refugees had descended into what has very quickly become the world's largest refugee camp. The incredible speed of the exodus created a crisis of catastrophic proportions which aid agencies have found near impossible at times to keep pace with. The enormity of providing food, water, shelter and sanitation to so many people in such a short period of time was a task much larger than anyone could have imagined.

In November last year, I had the honour of visiting Cox's Bazar on the invitation of both Oxfam and CARE Australia to see firsthand the sheer scale of this unfolding tragedy. I thought I was well prepared for that journey to Cox's Bazar, but nothing could have prepared me for the sight of 700,000 people crammed into a very small area. For kilometre after kilometre, all you can see is refugee camps. I don't believe such a megacamp exists anywhere else in the world.

Camp residents still today lack adequate water, sanitation, food, medical care and of course access to any form of economic means of creating a livelihood. Most resources are desperately needed. The UN appeal for $1.2 billion—the amount estimated to be needed this year—remains at just 32 per cent of that target. That means that we have found less than one-third of what is required to meet the needs of people right now. It's the responsibility of all countries, particularly wealthy countries like Australia, to do what we can to keep these refugees both sheltered and safe. Of course, we want to see a time when the Rohingya can voluntarily return to Myanmar to live in peace and safety with the citizenship rights that they have long been denied. But that simply isn't possible at this stage, and, quite frankly, it's hard to envisage a time in the near future when that will be the case.

In the meantime, the international community has a vital role in working with both the Myanmar and Bangladeshi governments to identify a long-term solution for the Rohingya people. I call on all parties involved to really make a concerted effort to ensure that we implement the recommendations from the Kofi Annan led advisory commission on the Rakhine State. In a week when we mourn the death of Kofi Annan, I can think of no better way to honour that man's life and his lifelong commitment to peace than to ensure that the international community get this right in our approach to a long-term solution for the Rohingya people.

One year on, the number of Rohingya now living in refugee camps has climbed to beyond 700,000, and that means there is a density of more than 1,000 times what is recommended for refugee camps.. So you can just imagine the kinds of pressures that come to bear on that situation. I am especially worried about the impacts on women and children in those camps. They make up 80 per cent of the camp residents. There are huge child protection issues that are of grave concern both to the people within the camps and to the international community at large. I also would like to put on record that despite all of the challenges, the Bangladeshi government and its people should be so warmly congratulated for their efforts to ensure humanity is gained. Thank you. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Buchholz ): Is the motion seconded?

Ms Kearney: I second the motion and reserve the right to speak.