Saudi Arabia Continues Rohingya Deportations

Many Rohingya in Myanmar have been displaced from their homes and live in UNHCR refugee camps. (Wikipedia)

Many Rohingya in Myanmar have been displaced from their homes and live in UNHCR refugee camps. (Wikipedia)

In a controversial move, Saudi Arabia has decided to continue its deportation of Rohingya refugees, with recent reports from Al Jazeera revealing that the government plans to deport 250 Rohingyas to Bangladesh. This will be the second round of Rohingya deportations to occur this year in Saudi Arabia, which has previously been a safe haven for such refugees since 1992.

According to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Rohingya are the “most-persecuted minority in the world,” with approximately 300,000 currently residing in Saudi Arabia. Danger to the Rohingya has been heightened since 2017, when Burmese forces launched what many believe to be a genocide on Rohingya Muslims; approximately 24,000 have already been killed and 750,000 forced to flee.

Ro Nay San Lwin, who broke the story and is a prominent Rohingya activist, is leading a protest against Saudi Arabia’s actions, saying that deported refugees will be jailed once they arrive in Bangladesh. The Rohingya themselves are also protesting by participating in a food strike, with one participant telling the Middle East Eye that, upon beginning the strike, “ there were 300 of us, and gradually more people began to join us.” This issue has united members of the Rohingya people around the world, with Bangladeshi Rohingyas joining the protest by holding banners up in their refugee camp imploring the United Nations to support their cause.

While Saudi Arabia has not yet commented on this recent story, it seems that it will attempt to justify its actions by claiming to only deport illegal refugees with fake documentation. The recent expulsion of Rohingya refugees has occurred directly in the aftermath of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s latest visit to Saudi Arabia. Bangladesh has increasingly become less willing to provide the refugees with a place to stay, which is largely due to the fact that they signed a deal with Myanmar to send the one million Rohingya refugees back.

Yanghee Lee, the UN rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, spoke out on January 25, saying, "I am dismayed by Saudi Arabia’s recent deportation of 13 Rohingya to Bangladesh." Despite this, worldwide coverage of this incident has been low. This lack of attention may be because Western countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom are hesitant to upset a major military and economic partner.