The European Parliament on December 14 called on the military and security forces in Myanmar to immediately cease the killings, harassment and rape of the Rohingya. MEPs called for “an immediate end to the violence, to the killing, harassment and rape of Rohingya people and to the destruction of their homes by the Myanmar security forces.”

The MEPs also urged the Myanmar government to condemn unequivocally all incitement to racial or religious hatred and combat social discrimination and hostilities against the Rohingya minority.

Since August, more than 646,000 Rohingya have fled for safety to neighbouring Bangladesh. The total number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is expected to exceed 1m by the end of this year, said the EU parliament’s resolution adopted by show of hands.

The MEPs called on the EU foreign policy chief to significantly increase pressure on the Myanmar authorities and security services to end the violence and discrimination perpetrated against the Rohingya people.

ALDE MEP, Urmas Paet (Estonian Reform Party), who negotiated the resolution on behalf of the group, said the EU should react immediately.

“The EU needs to increase pressure on Myanmar. We should adopt punitive sanctions against those responsible for human rights abuses in Myanmar, broaden the existing arms embargo and suspend trade preferences and negotiations on an EU-Myanmar investment treaty.”

According to Paet, there must be credible assurances that they can do so voluntarily, safely and under full UN oversight before any Rohingya refugees can return to Myanmar.

The EU parliament’s resolution followed an extraordinary debate that was secured by ECR MEP Amjad Bashir’s impassioned plea to Parliament President Antonio Tajani. Bashir said he hopes an inter-governmental conference would guarantee the safe return of the Rohingyas to Myanmar, restore their citizenship rights and set up an inquiry into all allegations of crimes against humanity.

“Inaction is simply unacceptable in the face of such cruel persecution and such human disaster,” he said. “I am pleased colleagues from across the European Parliament joined ECR MEPs today in calling for the international community to act to end the ongoing crisis.”

Bashir said there is now real momentum, a growing international consensus that the world cannot stand by and watch as a whole people are wiped out and driven abroad.

ECR MEP Sajjad Karim, who has also campaigned for an end to the persecution of the Rohingyas, said: “For many, many years now Member after Member of the European Parliament have stood in this chamber and highlighted the plight of the Rohingya. It seems that those calls have fallen on deaf ears and today we arrive at a situation where even the Pope cannot go there and call these people by their true identity.”

The United Nations says the Rohingya’s situation is the “world’s fastest growing refugee crisis”.