Rushanara Ali MP and Anne Main MP have today called on the government to end forced repatriation of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The two MP’s jointly chair the cross-party parliamentary group on the rights of the Rohingya.
Reports have emerged that Bangladeshi soldiers, police and parliamentarians have moved into Cox’s Bazaar, where over 700,000 Rohingya refugees were forced to relocate after fleeing a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar military in August last year, which was which was described by a UN fact-finding mission as genocide.
Over the last few days, up to 2,000 Rohingya refugees have been placed on a list for repatriation to Myanmar against their will. The repatriation was due to take place on Thursday but most of those on the list have gone into hiding to avoid being forced to return. Of the 50 families who were located, all of them refused as they were too afraid to return to Myanmar in the current conditions.
The UN, charities and NGO’s working in the refugee camps have condemned the planned repatriation. Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said: “We are witnessing terror and panic among those Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar who are at imminent risk of being returned to Myanmar against their will.”
The Bangladeshi authorities are believed to be strongly encouraging those on the lists to return to Myanmar but their Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, Mohammad Abul Kalam has said the Bangladesh government will not be forcing anyone to return and that they are “totally committed to the principle of non-refoulement and voluntary repatriation”.
Their joint statement said:
“We are extremely concerned by the ongoing reports of repatriation of Rohingya refugees against their will. It is imperative that returns are safe, dignified and crucially, voluntary. It is our strong conviction that conditions have not progressed to a point where Rohingya refugees would be safe to return. We appeal to the Government of Bangladesh to demonstrate the same compassion as they did hosting Rohingya refugees when they initially fled persecution from Burma.
The UK government must step in and use their influence to ensure no refugees are encouraged to return against their will. We call on the Foreign Secretary to speak with his counterparts in Bangladesh and Burma as a matter of urgency to express the completely unacceptable nature of the proposed returns.
The refugees deserve justice, dignity and the choice to return to safe conditions in Burma if they wish. The international community must do everything it can to ensure these conditions have been met before any repatriation can take place.“