WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee responsible for human rights, released the following statement on the latest aggressive actions against Rohingya refugees.
“The Government of Bangladesh has done more than any other country to provide safety, aid, and shelter to nearly 900,000 Rohingya refugees. However, I am gravely concerned by their recent efforts to relocate Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char, a remote silt island in the Bay of Bengal. I urge Bangladesh to reconsider its plans to relocate any more refugees until independent technical and protection assessments are carried out by the United Nations and voluntariness can be assured.
“The relocation of more than 1,600 Rohingya to Bhasan Char in early December is out of step with Bangladesh’s previous generosity and efforts to date to protect the Rohingya refugees fleeing genocide in Burma. Bangladesh has not yet granted the United Nations access to Bhasan Char for the UN to determine the island’s safety and habitability. I am deeply troubled by reports that the relocation of some Rohingya to Bhasan Char may have been coerced and undertaken without their informed consent.
“It is clear that the root cause of and the solution to the Rohingya crisis lies in Burma, where the Rohingya have been systematically persecuted and forced to flee. More must be done by the Government of Burma to improve conditions for Rohingya in Rakhine State, including allowing refugees to return to their places of origin, guaranteeing refugees’ security upon return, and importantly, the restoration or granting of equal rights including full citizenship, freedom of movement, and access to basic services for the Rohingya. But until safe and voluntary returns to Burma are possible, Bangladesh should, with the support of the United States and the international community, continue to protect Rohingya within its borders until they can safely return to their homeland in Burma.
“Any further relocations to Bhasan Char should be predicated on the findings of UN-led technical and protection assessments and the voluntary and fully informed consent of the Rohingya. I encourage Bangladesh to demonstrate its commitments to voluntary relocation and to allowing Rohingya to go back to the mainland by immediately returning the 306 Rohingya housed in Bhasan Char since May.
“The U.S. also has a critical role to play as the leading donor to the humanitarian response in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. I urge the United States to continue to support the Government of Bangladesh and the international community’s lifesaving humanitarian response in Cox’s Bazar, and to work with Bangladesh to ensure the safety and rights of the Rohingya are protected.”