Bangladesh is currently hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas, most of whom fled their homeland in Myanmar's Rakhine State since Aug 2017 after a brutal military offensive targeting the mainly-Muslim ethnic minority. File photo
The United States has called upon Myanmar to create the conditions conducive for Rohingyas’ voluntary, safe, and dignified return but expressed concerns over their relocation to Bhasan Char.
"We’re coordinating closely with the international community, in consultation with the affected communities, to promote such efforts," said Cale Brown, Principal Deputy Spokesperson at the US Department of State.
Sharing its position on the relocation of Rohingyas to Bhasan Char, the US said they are "concerned" about the relocation of 1,642 Rohingyas to the island and plans to carry out further relocations.
"The United States concurs with the UN that any such relocations must be fully voluntary and based on informed consent without pressure or coercion," the statement reads.
In the face of growing concerns over the extreme congestion in Cox’s Bazar camps and to avert any risk of death due to landslides and other unwarranted incidents, the government of Bangladesh has decided to relocate 100,000 Rohingyas to Bhashan Char in phases.
Accordingly, in the first phase, more than 1,600 Rohingyas, who expressed their willingness voluntarily for relocation, were shifted to Bhashan Char on December 4.
Brown said the United States has long noted its appreciation for the government of Bangladesh’s commitment to hosting the Rohingyas.
Bangladesh plans to shift 100,000 Rohingyas to Bhasan Char in phases
Bangladesh has stated that Rohingya refugees may return to camps on the mainland if they choose, said the US.
"The United States calls on the Government of Bangladesh to adhere to this commitment and demonstrate respect for the human rights of refugees relocated to Bhasan Char, including freedom of movement, by facilitating refugees’ ability to move to and from Cox’s Bazar," Brown said.
Refugees on Bhasan Char should have access to livelihoods and basic services, such as education and health care, said the US.
With the UN and likeminded donors, the US has asked for Bangladesh to accept the UN’s offer of thorough and independent technical and protection assessments to determine the safety, feasibility, and desirability of relocating refugees there.
"Independent access to Bhasan Char will help to confirm whether refugees were relocated voluntarily and remain there voluntarily, and suitability of the site to withstand cyclones and seasonal flooding," Brown said.
The United States said it supports the pursuit of comprehensive solutions for Rohingya refugees and internally displaced persons.
The US is the leading contributor to humanitarian assistance in response to the Rakhine State crisis, providing nearly $1.2 billion since the escalation of violence in August 2017, of which nearly $962 million is for programmes inside Bangladesh; these programmes provide support to host communities, as well as Rohingya refugees.
On October 22, the US hosted, together with the EU, UK, and UNHCR, a virtual donor conference entitled “Sustaining Support for the Rohingya Refugee Response” that attracted participation from 34 additional countries and generated nearly $600 million in funding announcements from 25 donors.
"We encourage the Government of Bangladesh to continue coordinating with the international community to ensure funding for this crisis response and to work toward durable solutions in a manner that is consistent with international norms and respects the human rights of each individual," Cale Brown said.