Friday, June 10, 2011

United States urged to resolve Burmese refugees in Bangladesh

SALEEM SAMAD

BANGLADESH FORMALLY requested United States to exert diplomatic pressure on Burma to repatriate thousands of ethnic Muslim Rohingya languishing in refugee camps in the country for decades, a breeding ground of Islamic extremism and human trafficking.

Food and disaster management minister Abdur Razzaque briefed journalists on Thursday after a holding crucial meeting in the capital Dhaka with the visiting U.S. assistant secretary of state for population, refugee and migration Eric Schwartz.
Dhaka requests Washington to open consultation with Burma (now Myanmar) for the repatriation of some 300,000 documented and undocumented Rohingya refugees living in untold miseries.

The Burmese Muslims are housed in three camps near Cox’s Bazaar, the sea beach resort bordering Burma in the south-east. The camps are run by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees with support from international aid agencies.

Schwartz categorically told Bangladesh authority that the solution to the repartition of Rohingya refugees lies primarily with Bangladesh to encourage Burma for voluntary repartition of the refugees.

Bangladesh minister instead insists that U.S. should exert pressure on Burmese military junta for the repartition of the refugee. “We are already socially and economically burdened after hosting these refugees on humanitarian ground for so many years,” Razzaque told reporters.
The visiting U.S. assistant secretary of state requested Bangladesh authorities to register the undocumented refugees since the stateless people have been living in an inhuman condition too.

He said that the refugees living here is a political headache for the region, as well as for United States in the war against terrorism. The undocumented Rohingya refugee’s is a breeding ground for recruits for the Islamic terror network.

He assured that unless there is a change of military junta towards a political solution in Burma, the United States will continue to support Bangladesh for sheltering the Rohingya refugees.

Schwartz expressed concern over scanty food ration, inadequate shelter and poor healthcare facilities for the refugees who started entering Bangladesh since 1991 when Burma military junta drove away the ethnic Muslims from the southern Rakhaine state of Burma.

Recognizing the issue as a humanitarian disaster, Schwartz said the regime in Burma systematically denies human rights and human freedom of the Rohingya and also of pro-democracy Burmese.

An estimated 236,000 out of over 250,000 Rohingya refugees have returned to Burma in early 1990s, but persistent political persecution in their country have forced them again to take shelter in neighboring Bangladesh.

The process for refugee repatriation was halted for years because of the reluctance of military authority in Myanmar.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and politics. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com