UN special rapporteur on Myanmar urges independent assessment of Bhashan Char and verification of voluntary relocation
The failure to create conditions necessary for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to return home to Myanmar, after more than three years, has created an untenable situation for both Rohingyas and the government of Bangladesh, a UN human rights expert said on Thursday.
"Myanmar has a moral and legal responsibility to end the Rohingya crisis,” he said, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.
The UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, also expressed concerns about reports that 1,642 Rohingya refugees had been relocated to Bhashan Char island without an independent assessment by the United Nations to verify that the island was suitable to safely host this vulnerable population.
He urged the government of Bangladesh to make refugee relocation contingent on the outcome of UN proposed assessments of Bhashan Char and on an independent international verification process to confirm that those slated for relocation made their decision of their own free will and with complete and accurate information.
“These verifications and assessments are in the best interest of all. They will assure the government of Bangladesh of the suitability of Bhashan Char to host refugees or identify changes that might be necessary. It will also assure that the government’s policy of strict voluntary relocation to Bhashan Char is, indeed, being faithfully carried out,” he said.
Andrews said he was concerned by reports that some of the relocations were done involuntarily through either coercion or misinformation.
He said it was reasonable for the Bangladesh government to seek to create options for the refugees who desired alternatives to the mega camps in Cox’s Bazar.
“The Bangladesh government has been extraordinarily generous and compassionate in providing desperate people with a safe haven in their time of need,” he added.
‘Rohingya crisis can only be solved in Myanmar’
“Make no mistake: The Rohingya crisis emanated from Myanmar and can only be solved in Myanmar,” Andrews said.
“The government of Myanmar has the moral and legal responsibility to end this crisis. After being forced to literally run for their lives over the border into Bangladesh, the Rohingya want, and deserve, to return home," he said.
“It is reasonable, therefore, for the government of Bangladesh to seek what it correctly describes as the only durable solution to the crisis – the repatriation of the Rohingya to their home villages. The international community must support this effort and ensure that repatriation is done voluntarily, safely, and with dignity,” said the special rapporteur.
He said that the international community must acknowledge, however, that after three years its policy with respect to the Rohingya refugees has failed.
“It has failed because Myanmar remains unwilling to take meaningful steps to create conditions necessary for the safe, sustainable, and dignified return to the Rohingya’s place of origin in Rakhine State,” Andrews said, adding: “And, it has failed by not sufficiently resourcing Bangladesh to carry out its humanitarian mission.”
“We must no longer simply thank Bangladesh for its humanitarian assistance while providing lip service to the Rohingya’s right of return,” he said. “The international community must provide support, action, and accountability,” he said.