The United Kingdom has said they will continue to work with international partners to press for the creation of conditions in Rakhine allowing a voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingyas. The UK, however, opposes the plan for relocating any Rohingya to Bhasan Char Island in Noakhali.
“We absolutely oppose plans for moving any Rohingya to Bhasan Char (Island), the Island in the Bay of Bengal,” said British Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field.
He said they do not feel that would be a safe or feasible place and reiterated that any location or relocation of refugees has to be safe, dignified and in accordance with international humanitarian principles, standards and laws. The UK minister made the remark in a debate on December 20 at the House of Commons on Rohingya crisis.
British MP (Bethnal Green and Bow) Rushanara Ali moved the issue saying the House is deeply concerned by the ongoing humanitarian crisis facing Rohingyas.
She said the House agrees with the findings of the UN fact-finding mission that genocide and war crimes have been carried out against the Rohingya by senior Myanmar military figures.
“This is not the first time that the House has debated the Rohingya refugee crisis, and it won’t be the last. This is one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time,” said Rushanara.
She mentioned that the United Nations fact-finding mission concluded that the Burmese military were responsible for “consistent patterns of serious human rights violations and abuses…in addition to serious violations of international humanitarian law.”
It made concrete recommendations that the Myanmar military “should be investigated and prosecuted in an international criminal tribunal for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
“And yet so little has been done in practical terms to solve the crisis, provide safety and security for the Rohingya people and bring those responsible to justice,” she said.
Minister Mark Field said the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar were preparing to start Rohingya repatriation on November 15. “I spoke as a matter of urgency by telephone with Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister and I spoke with both the Bangladeshi State Minister of Foreign Affairs and Burma’s Minister for International Cooperation in advance of that day.”
He said he was absolutely clear with each of them that the UK government shared the assessment of the UN Refugee Agency: that insufficient progress had been made to enable safe returns to northern Rakhine.
The UK minister welcomed the Bangladesh government’s subsequent reaffirmation of their commitment to exclusively voluntary returns.
“I can reassure Members that the UK will continue to play a full part in supporting Rohingya refugees as a leading donor to the international humanitarian response, to which we’ve so far donated £129 million,” he said.
The House members shared the plight of the Rohingya people during the debate. Several Members, including the UK Minister, have made the journey to camps in Bangladesh to meet Rohingyas and heard their distressing testimony for themselves.
“When I travelled to Cox’s Bazar in June, I could see the immense scale of the suffering. The refugee situation is heartbreaking, notwithstanding the immense generosity being shown to them by the government of Bangladesh which has given shelter to nearly 1 million people,” said the UK minister.
He said the UK government will continue to work with international partners to press for the creation of conditions in Rakhine allowing for a voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingyas. “However, there’s clearly no appetite for such a return at the moment.”