The catastrophic residual effects of Cyclone Mocha in May 2023 across South Asia reveal the bureaucratic and humanitarian failures of Western nations, particularly with regard to their responsibilities toward refugees.
In 2017, the Myanmar military launched a bloody siege on the state’s Rohingya community, resulting in the violent expulsion of an estimated 800,000 refugees to camps in Bangladesh.
Since then, the Bangladesh government — alongside local and international development agencies — has sustained the resettled Rohingya community through housing, health, education, and other basic provisions.
Yet in recent months, the Bangladesh government has come under criticism by the international humanitarian community for alleged human rights violations. Most recently, due to overcrowding in the camps, the government relocated a large number of Rohingya to an island prone to flooding, which Cyclone Mocha later ravaged.
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina then defended the resettlement. She rebuked claims of human rights violations, arguing that for the past six years Bangladesh — already a nation struggling with overcrowding and poverty — has done nothing but defend the rights and facilitate the security of the Rohingya. This assertation quickly drew reproach from the international aid community.
While many humanitarian actors argue the Bangladeshi government has inadequately protected the Rohingya refugee community, it is, in fact, the West that has failed refugees.
Wealthier nations disproportionately contribute to capitalist environmental degradation that fuels the spiraling velocity of climate catastrophes, while refugees disproportionately experience precarity resulting from such events.
Communities fleeing the climate crisis are a rapidly growing subgroup of refugees as ecological catastrophe becomes more expansive. In recent months and years, the world has witnessed an increase in those identifying as refugees due to the shifting climate. In 2020 alone, there were an estimated nine million internally displaced persons in South Asia migrating as a response to environmental disaster.
To mediate future climate-related refugee disasters, which will inevitably increase as we continue to ignore the realities of warming, we must shift our focus from the victim-blaming discourse of Bangladesh’s failures to insisting that the creators and perpetuators of such violence take greater responsibility to repair these man-made crises.
Indeed, many of the issues of crowding and poverty that Bangladesh had been experiencing for decades before the arrival of the Rohingya were due to the excesses of Western capitalism as opposed to simply domestic governmental failures.
Concretely, the West must pay climate reparations, not just to the Rohingya, but more broadly to communities across the Global South which are disproportionately experiencing the ills of Western greed-produced climate terror.
Reparations may take on many forms and modes. Financial reparations could include cash payments to lower-income countries or debt forgiveness between economically dependent nations. Development assistance reparations might also be pursued, which could include increasing refugee reception quotas for Western host countries or the provision of humanitarian aid to climate refugee-producing countries.
Host nations such as Bangladesh must continue to do their part to protect refugees in times of mounting crisis. However, until Western countries acknowledge and atone for their contributions to such disasters through reparations, both refugee communities and the planet will continue to languish.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.