47. An estimated 600,000 vulnerable, stateless Rohingya still live in Rakhine State, including some 130,000 whom the government has confined to IDP camps in central Rakhine since 2012. The cumulative effect of the armed conflict, COVID-19, and attendant measures comprising curfews and other movement restrictions as well as mobile data/internet shutdowns, exposes already vulnerable populations (including IDPs in protracted situation and ongoing new displaced populations), to even greater risks, and significantly impacts access to livelihoods and essential services. While restrictions on movement affected all communities, the Rohingya faced additional obstacles/threats – for instance, when seeking safety or accessing life-saving services at night – due to pre-existing movement restrictions. The pandemic exacerbated longstanding prejudices and negative rhetoric against the Rohingya in Rakhine State (i.e. in relation to “illegal” cross-border movements) accompanied by increased calls for the Government to control the country’s borders.
55. No tangible progress was reported in improving the situation of the Rohingya with regard to their legal status and right to a nationality, or restoring citizenship in line with the Government of Myanmar’s endorsed Advisory Commission on Rakhine State recommendations. Without reform of the 1982 Citizenship Law, discrimination based on an applicant’s ethnicity – in both law and practice – continues to impede the acquisition of citizenship documentation among minority groups, with the Rohingya being the most affected.
56. Citizenship remains inaccessible to almost all Rohingya. The citizenship process continues to lack transparency and involve prohibitively high unofficial fees and burdensome evidentiary and administrative requirements. Recent trends also indicate that the Rohingya are being issued Naturalized citizenship even when eligible for full citizenship. Access to civil and citizenship documentation remains challenging countrywide, with ethnic and religious minority groups being the most, but not exclusively, affected. Several reports have highlighted numerous barriers faced by different groups across Myanmar in obtaining nationality documents, including logistical, gender-based, administrative, and cost, as well as parallel administrative systems in non-governmental controlled areas (NGCA). Measures aimed at improving access to citizenship documents, such as streamlined procedures and mobile missions, apply exclusively to persons from the 135 officially recognized ethnic groups, despite that the origins and legal nature of the “official” list remain dubious. The burden of proof rests fully on the applicant, and officers mandated to determine nationality have a high discretion on the type and number of documents that they can request the applicant to submit. This results in a complex, lengthy, time consuming, and at times arbitrary and discriminatory, process preventing disadvantaged and vulnerable groups from realizing their right to nationality.
60. In central Rakhine State, 130,000 people, the vast majority of whom are stateless Rohingya, 54 percent of whom are children, were confined to what can best be described as desolate internment camps. Under the best of circumstances, they had extremely limited access to healthcare, even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, an estimated 600,000 Rohingya live in Rakhine State under highly repressive conditions that severely limit their ability to move or make a living, let alone access health care or education for their children. Conditions for Rohingya in Rakhine State appear designed to be destructive to the survival of the community.
86. The Special Rapporteur’s recommendations after the restoration of a legitimate government include:
(e) Address the unresolved issues involving ethnic minority states and communities including justice for the Rohingya ethnic community;
(g) Lift all restrictions arbitrarily imposed and enforced on Rohingya that, taken as a whole, create conditions that are destructive to the Rohingya, including, but not limited to, restrictions on freedom of movement, health, education, livelihoods, and equal access to citizenship;