Ambassador Teerink sheds light on role of other countries in region

European Union (EU) Ambassador to Bangladesh Rensje Teerink has said the whole international community should stand together to find a solution to the Rohingya crisis with focus on their voluntary and sustainable repatriation to Myanmar.

"It's crystal clear that they want to go back home (Myanmar). They don't want to stay at camps. We should stand behind it," she said adding that repatriation would be the best solution.

The EU Ambassador said it is not a matter of pointing finger at the EU that it is not doing enough but look at other countries.

"Of course, it's not easy geopolitically. Look in the region and look at other countries (what's their position). Look at India and China, indeed many of the countries in Asean," said the Ambassador sharing the necessity of working together.

Ambassador Teerink said more should be done and there is no doubt about it.

The EU envoy was interacting with members of Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) at a city hotel on December 2.

Spanish Ambassador to Bangladesh Francisco Asis Benitez Salas, Italian Ambassador Enrico Nunziata, Dutch Ambassador Harry Verweij, Swedish Ambassador Alexandra Berg Von Linde and Dennis Ambassador Winnie Estrup Petersen also spoke at the DCAB Talk.

DCAB President Angur Nahar Monty and General Secretary Touhidur Rahman were present.

The EU Ambassador also talked about Bhasan Char relocation, migration and trade issues.

She did not want to make any comment on Bhasan Char relocation before the visits by UN technical and humanitarian protection teams to Bhasan Char.

"We always said let's first see what mission brings. If the mission says it is totally safe and sustainable for these people to be relocated, then we can look how we can support this process. At the moment, we feel it is a bit premature because the missions have not taken place on the Bhasan Char," she said.

Ambassador Teerink said they are still waiting to see whether they can address the Rohingya issue in a better way as Myanmar has just seen its national elections.

She said the EU is working with all the instruments as it advocates Rohingya repatriation.

Ambassador Teerink said Kofi Annan Commission's recommendations should be implemented for Rohingya repatriation. "It's still our guidelines."

Responding to a UNB question on third country resettlement for sharing burden, she said they do not have a position on this at this moment as repatriation is on focus.

The Ambassador, however, said the third country resettlement could be something for some families who have family ties. "It's not something on agenda at the moment."

She said so far their approach is to help Bangladesh to deal with Rohingyas and giving hospitality to this enormous group.

Ambassador Teerink said Bangladesh has done it in an exemplary way and the entire international community should be incredibly grateful. "We are committed to continue supporting Bangladesh."

Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar camps and has a plan to relocate 100,000 Rohingyas to Bhasan Char starting from this month.

Repatriation was failed twice in November 2018 and August 2019 amid Rohingyas' lack of trust on 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 "Physical Arrangement", which was supposed to facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland.

GSP Plus

Bangladesh is one of the biggest beneficiaries of trade scheme- Everything but Arms (EBA) and wants the EU to continue providing the current zero duty benefit even after its graduation to a developing country.

The EU Ambassador said if Bangladesh is graduating by 2024, there will be a grace period of three years.

She said so if there is any change, it will happen only in 2027 and preconditions need to be fulfilled to apply for GSP Plus benefit.

Bangladesh has been a WTO member since 1995 and, as a least developed country, benefits from the EU's "Everything but Arms" arrangement, which grants duty free, quota free access for all exports, except arms and ammunition.

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