Switzerland’s support is not only going to the camps, but also to host communities
Swiss Ambassador to Bangladesh Nathalie Chuard has said there is growing global expectation to address the root causes of the Rohingya crisis and prepare the ground for the sustainable return of Rohingya refugees to their place of origin in Myanmar.
However, Ambassador Chuard also said the conditions required for a sustainable, voluntary, safe and dignified return are not there yet.
"It is important that the international community continues supporting Bangladesh in its humanitarian efforts, and that this support includes key elements of facilitating the refugees’ return, such as documentation, education and skills," she told UNB in an interview at her residence.
For Switzerland, the ambassador said, it is very important to foster dialogue between all actors around the crisis.
"I can say that the international community continues to work closely and jointly with all the countries and stakeholders in the region to find a durable solution to the Rohingya crisis," said Ambassador Chuard.
She added that they are also looking for a solution within the framework of international humanitarian and human rights laws, and want to ensure that access to humanitarian assistance is given to all refugees.
Ambassador Chuard highly appreciates Bangladesh for hosting the Rohingyas.
"I very much commend the generosity and hospitality of the government and the people of Bangladesh," she said.
"When it comes to the planned relocation of Rohingyas to Bhasan Char, I’ve to echo what many members of the international community have already said. We need to have the critical protection, basic rights, services and operational issues assessed and addressed effectively," the ambassador added.
Ambassador Chuard said an independent, comprehensive technical and protection assessment should be conducted to determine the feasibility and safety of such relocation.
The government of Bangladesh says it will relocate 100,000 Rohingyas to Bhasan Char and there is an indication that the relocation will begin in small groups from the first week of December, without any major announcement.
Ambassador Chuard, who recently visited the Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar, said she is really amazed with the comprehensive response from all actors.
"There is a very strong and very important collaboration among all actors," said the ambassador, who met partners, government and UN officials on the ground.
The Swiss ambassador is also pleased to see that deforestation has now somehow been turned into reforestation. "That is a very positive signal."
The envoy said she was in position to see with her own eyes how the partners are adjusting their activities with the Covid-19 situation.
"I was impressed by how humanitarian actors adapted their operations to the new set of challenges while still being focused on responding to needs," she said.
Mentioning that the Rohingya crisis had entered the fourth year, she said the Rohingya people want to return to their homes in Myanmar.
"It is crucial to give them hope and perspectives. Living conditions remain dire, with enduring protection concerns related to safety and security, especially for the most vulnerable groups such as women and girls," said the ambassador.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, increased gender-based violence has been reported in the camps.
Responding to a question on the host community, the ambassador said Switzerland’s support is not only going to the camps, but also to host communities. Switzerland has an active presence in Cox’s Bazar, with direct actions addressing challenges such as sanitation and waste management at district level.
“It is a crucial upgrade for the district, and I am proud that Switzerland has the expertise and technology that can improve the current infrastructure,” said Ambassador Chuard.
Repatriation attempts have failed twice, in November 2018 and August 2019, due to the Rohingyas' lack of trust in the Myanmar government.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed the repatriation deal on November 23, 2017.
On January 16, 2018, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a document on the physical arrangement of repatriation, which was supposed to facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland.