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Members urge Administration to deploy direct assistance to rescue migrants, implore allies in region to accept refugees
Letter follows genocide warnings from Holocaust Museum and criticizes Burma’s discriminatory laws

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Reps. Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) along with 21 other bipartisan members of the House of Representatives, announced they sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the United States to take additional actions to help save Rohingya migrants stranded at sea as well as address the underlying root of the crisis, including the discriminatory religious laws and official policies championed by Burma’s current government that contribute to the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims.

The letter calls on the U.S. to deploy humanitarian assistance, which would include aerial imagery and sea assets if necessary, to rescue the migrants. It also urges the U.S. to implore allies in the region to accept the refugees and provide them safe harbor.

“We believe it is time for a decisive and public response from the United States and like-minded countries. Specifically, we strongly urge the U.S. to provide search and rescue support and humanitarian assistance in coordination with regional partners to ensure the safety of the thousands in danger at sea,” wrote the lawmakers in the letter.

The letter continues: “We urge the U.S. government to make every effort to prevent the Andaman Sea from becoming a graveyard for thousands more if further steps are not taken to address this crisis.”

The persecution of the Rohingya in the Rakhine State is well documented, though other minority groups are persecuted as well. The community has long suffered from severe human rights violations, including targeted violent attacks, forced displacement, and denial of humanitarian aid. A recent report by a fact-finding delegation from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum stated early warning signs of a Rohingya genocide are in place.

Burma’s government has helped stoke persecution by proposing and championing discriminatory laws and refusing to allow international aid agencies complete access to affected communities. Despite public promises by Thein Sein’s government to address the situation, more and more Rohingya are fleeing Burma in fear, including the most recent crisis at sea.

In the letter, the members urge the State Department to address the root of the current crisis, including speaking out against Burma’s current government’s championing of religious discrimination legislation that has helped fuel the persecution of the Rohingya. The letter also urges consideration of downgrading Burma’s status in the State Department’s Trafficking in Person report which would make it subject to penalties and denial of benefits.

“For too long, the international community has accepted limited, easily-reversed progress on human rights in Burma while the underlying persecution of the Rohingya continues. Action must be taken to address the immediate crisis, and comprehensive action needs to be taken to address the policies in Burma that are at the root of this crisis,” wrote the lawmakers.

In August 2014, Crowley, Chabot and Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) led a group of members in sending a letter to Secretary Kerry voicing concern over the deteriorating situation and urging the U.S. to not make further concessions unless serious progress is made by the Burmese government, including addressing human rights abuses against the Rohingya.

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Click to view pdf of the joint letter
Click to view the press release