LONDON: Malala Yousufzai urged Myanmar leaders to take “immediate action” to prevent the persecution of the country’s Rohingya Muslims, most of whom are considered by the government to be illegal immigrants.

The 17-year-old, who was shot by militants for campaigning for girls’ rights, said that Rohingyas deserved “equal rights and opportunities” and called for them to be integrated into the country.

“I stand with the Rohingyas, and I encourage people everywhere to do so,” Malala said.

“I call on the leaders of Myanmar and the world to take immediate action to halt the inhuman persecution of Burma’s Muslim minority Rohingya people,” she said.

Rohingya Muslims “deserve to be treated like we all deserve to be treated – with dignity and respect. Today and every day; Malala Yousafzai

She stressed the right of Rohingyas to citizenship in their country of birth, saying they deserved equal rights and opportunities. “The Rohingyas deserve citizenship in the country where they were born and have lived for generations. They deserve equal rights and opportunities.”

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Young Malala is currently in the United Kingdom completing her studies in Birmingham. After being shot by the Taliban in October 2012, Malala was treated at a hospital in Birmingham. She started at her school in the city in March last year.

Last year, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her education campaigning, jointly with Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi.

Myanmar considers the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and places a raft of restrictions on them, such as family size, movements and access to jobs.

Most of the 1.3 million-strong community have no citizenship and tens of thousands have fled the impoverished Myanmar state of Rakhine after deadly communal violence there in 2012, sparking a migrant crisis.

The collapse of a transnational trafficking route following a Thai crackdown has made it even more difficult for the Rohingyas to escape persecution, with many ending up in camps in a remote region near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border.

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