Norwegian Ambassador to Bangladesh Sidsel Bleken has said that her country stood beside Bangladesh over Rohingya issue.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Sun recently, she said, “We support the diplomatic efforts being undertaken by Bangladesh in resolving the crisis and we stand by Dhaka over the issue in the international forum.”
The envoy said: “Norwegian government has been working closely with Bangladesh government along with the international community for resolving the issue.”
“During the UNGA session in New York in September, our prime minister met with your prime minister to discuss the Rohingya issue”, she continued.
The Norwegian ambassador also maintained that the foreign minister of Norway had discussed the issue with his Bangladesh counterpart on the sideline of A SEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting at Na Pyi Taw in Myanmar, last month.
“Norwegian support to Bangladesh will continue as long as the crisis persists, because we believe that the crisis is a long-standing one,” she mentioned.
The envoy also noted that Rohingya people had been suffering immensely since eviction from their land. “It has been very brutal and violent,” she lamented.
Citing it as a tragedy for Rohingyas, but a challenge for Bangladesh, Myanmar and international community, Sidsel Bleken said: “We have to work together for resolving the issue”.
The Nordic diplomat continued saying that Norway had so far provided financial support of approximately $10 million for Rohingya people.
“We hope that more aid would come by the end of the year and we also look into more support for next year, because the crisis is not going to end by the end of this year,” she continued.
“Even if Bangladesh and Myanmar agree on safe return of Rohingyas to their homeland, it will have to be done in accordance with international principles,” the envoy maintained.
In reply to a query, the ambassador hoped that the UN would play a significant role in persuading Myanmar to take back Rohingyas, stop violence and grant access to humanitarian assistance to the affected areas.
Terming that a solution to the crisis lied mostly with the recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission report, she said: “As it has an international dimension, the role of the UN is very important to ensure implementation of the recommendations of the report for a permanent solution.”
“Besides, international negotiation is a must and the best way to work for supporting recommendations of Annan Commission report,” she maintained.
In reply to a question, the Norwegian ambassador said, “We have to convince the military in Myanmar to take Rohingyas back to their homes in Rakhine state.”
“Our embassy in Myanmar is raising the issue with the government there and advocating for safe and dignified return of Rohingyas to their homes,” she continued.
The Scandinavian diplomat also said, “It’s important that the UN would be involved in the repatriation process as it has to be ensured that the same incident is not going to happen again.”
Mentioning that for some Rohingyas this is the third time they have been evicted from their land and fled to Bangladesh, she said: “They have been persecuted a number of times and that for their voluntary return they need to have a guarantee that the same incident would not happen again.”
When asked if her government has any plan to take Rohingyas to Norway, the ambassador said: “This is not on the agenda, currently. Now, all are working for them so that they can return to their homes in Myanmar.”
Mentioning that Norway receives a number of refugees through the UNHCR every year, Sidsel Bleken said: “There is no plan to send Rohingyas to any third country.
This is because, if they can go back to Myanmar they will feel well at home.”
“In Myanmar, they could go back to the fields to get better opportunities for earning a living,” she said.
“But going to Norway, it might be more difficult to live and adapt and adjust to the Norwegian society as they have been deprived of all kinds of services, including education and health,” she maintained.
“So, it is better to go to a life they are used to live,” the envoy continued.
Terming Bangladeshi people kind, warm-hearted and welcoming, Sidsel Bleken said, “I have found them industrious which have earned them a good result in eradication of poverty.”
“You just keep up with good work and treat your women decently,” she urged.
The ambassador said: “The Norwegian government has two main priorities in Bangladesh—Supporting private sector development and Norwegian investment, and political dialogue and cooperation with Bangladesh, both on bilateral and global issues.”
She also said that Bangladesh had achieved tremendous progress in birth rate reduction and it had also come a long way in literacy and economic growth.
“Though politically it’s a little bit challenging, Bangladesh is moving in the right direction,” the envoy noted.
While sharing her experience in carrying out diplomatic responsibilities in Dhaka, the Nordic diplomat said: “I have been enjoying myself in Dhaka a lot.”
“I have found my assignment here very interesting, rewarding, and a little bit challenging as well,” she concluded.