UK and Canada call for safe repatriation of Rohingya to Myanmar

Commonwealth foreign ministers commit to safe solution to refugee crisis taking place in Bangladesh

Rohingya refugee children fly improvised kites at the Kutupalong refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh December 10, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj  TO FIND ALL PICTURES SEARCH REUTERS PULITZER

The UK and Canada have committed to finding a solution to the Rohingya refugee crisis in a break-out meeting at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London.

Britain’s foreign secretary Boris Johnson and his Canadian counterpart Chrystia Freeland hosted a round-table to allow Commonwealth nations to stand in solidarity with Bangladesh, which is currently home to more than 670,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar in the past nine months.

“The plight of the Rohingya will not be forgotten,” Mr Johnson said. “As a Commonwealth community, we need to ensure there is a strong response to the urgent request for humanitarian assistance in Bangladesh.”

At the meeting, which was attended by the foreign ministers of Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh, Mr Johnson said the UK was one of the largest donors to the crisis, with £59 million (Dh309.8m) committed to helping the refugees in camps such as that in Cox’s Bazar.

“Alongside our financial contribution it is right that we use events such as the Commonwealth Summit to ensure that attention does not fade away from the almost one million refugees living in Bangladesh,” the foreign secretary said.


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Mr Johnson noted that the conditions in Rakhine, the province of Myanmar where the refugees had been driven from by security forces, were still “not conducive to safe returns. The authorities need to demonstrate that they are serious about the safety and security of the Rohingya. A credible independent investigation into reported atrocities is an important step in this process.”

Ms Freeland added that the “international community must rally and reaffirm their support to ensure that the basic needs of those affected by this crisis are met. We also need to work together to hold perpetrators of violence to account, and actively co-ordinate our efforts to further promote diversity, inclusiveness, justice and equity for all, and support all efforts towards building lasting peace and reconciliation in Myanmar.”

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called on global leaders to exert their influence on Myanmar to take back Rohingya refugees.

“The international community needs to put more pressure on Myanmar so that they take back their own people and ensure their security,” Ms Hasina told an audience at the CHOGM.

“Myanmar says they are ready to take back the Rohingya, but they are not taking the initiative.”

In a blog post for the Huffington Post on Wednesday, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said the meeting of Commonwealth leaders in London must signify a “turning point” for the donor community’s support for Bangladesh as monsoon season approaches the crowded camps of Cox’s Bazar, where many Rohingya fled to escape the violence.

“Creating the conditions for refugees to return to their homes will only be achieved through fierce, active diplomacy,” Dr Allin-Khan wrote. “The international community must have complete oversight of the conditions on the ground to once and for all say: ‘never again.’

Steve McAndrew, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Cox’s Bazar, said clinics were preparing for possible outbreaks of cholera and other diseases that might break out when the monsoons arrive.

“It’s hot, it’s hard to find water and food, and the conditions are getting worse. And they are going to continue to get worse as the rainy season comes and then we have a monsoon season and cyclone season,” Mr McAndrew told Reuters at the organisation’s HQ in Geneva.

“The situation is getting worse, and it’s open-ended and there is no end in sight.”