Caption: Rohingya refugees behind a barbed-wire fence in a temporary settlement in a ‘no man’s land’ border zone between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Photograph: Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images
Shahriar Alam criticises international community for doing ‘absolutely nothing’ to press Myanmar’s junta to guarantee a safe return.
by Kaamil Ahmed, The Guardian, UK
The world has done “absolutely nothing” to ensure safety in Myanmar for its persecuted Rohingya minority, said Bangladesh’s foreign minister, complaining that his country is sheltering more than 1 million refugees without support.
Foreign minister Shahriar Alam told the Guardian financial support for the Rohingya has decreased each year and there has been no real progress towards repatriation in the five years since more than 700,000 fled massacres by Myanmar’s military. That wave, in August 2017, joined approximately 300,000 people that had already fled Myanmar because of previous security crackdowns.
Alam said not enough pressure had been brought to bear on Myanmar’s military junta and called for greater international support for a genocide case at the UN’s international courts of justice, and for a case focusing on forced deportation at the international criminal court.
“On the political and repatriation solution, the world is doing absolutely nothing,” said Alam. “They haven’t exercised all their power yet. Up until recently they have kept on investing in Myanmar. The growth of FDI [foreign direct investment] in Myanmar from 2017 to 2020 was greater than that of Bangladesh. You know, how weird is that?”
Alam was sceptical of proposed sanctions on the travel and finances of senior military figures, saying the people in question rarely travel.
The UN humanitarian appeal for the Rohingya refugees has received only a third of funding required this year. Alam said he feared even less money would be donated next year because of rising costs globally.
The mostly Muslim Rohingya were collectively stripped of their citizenship in 1982 and have been subjected to violent military operations as well as pervasive controls on movement, religion, healthcare and education.
Thousands who fled military crackdowns in 1978 and 1991 were repatriated, only for Bangladesh to see larger numbers return because no measures were taken to ensure their safety in Myanmar.
“I think some of those [past] agreements were flawed but this time around, the government of Bangladesh is fully committed to a dignified and sustainable return. Unless they are given some basic rights, these people are never going to be willing to return,” he said.
Talks with Myanmar to return very small numbers were under way, he added, which he hoped could lay groundwork for larger returns in the future.
The US has offered to resettle some people, he said, but it would need several other countries to make similar offers to significantly ease the burden on Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has twice attempted to repatriate the Rohingya since 2017 but none were willing to return. The government has also relocated more than 30,000 Rohingya to Bhasan Char, an island camp in the Bay of Bengal, despite concern from humanitarian groups about access to basic services and its vulnerability to cyclones.
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