Rohingyas’ right to return must be high on int’l agenda: UK

It’s time to look beyond short-term live-saving assistance, she says

Sun Online Desk

20th February, 2019 01:26:30 printer

Rohingyas’ right to return must be high on int’l agenda: UK

The United Kingdom has reaffirmed its commitment to help resolve the Rohingya crisis saying that the right of these displaced people’s return to their place of origin in Myanmar’s Rakhine State must remain high on international agenda.


Penny Mordaunt, British Secretary of State for International Development and Minister for Women and Equalities, came up with this observation while talking to a select group of journalists at the residence of the High Commissioner in the capital.


The British Minister stressed emphasis on unceasing joint efforts to protect both Rohingyas and the host communities in Cox’s Bazar.


“We must make sure that Rohingyas’ right to return remains high on the international agenda,” said Penny Mordaunt.


British High Commissioner in Dhaka Alison Blake was also present at the interaction.


Mordaunt, the first UK cabinet minister to visit Bangladesh since the December-30 elections, met Rohingyas living in Kutupalong camp at a food distribution centre, spoke to women being protected from violence, and saw how children with disabilities were getting the therapy and treatment they need, all supported by UK aid.


The plight of the Rohingyas must not be forgotten, she said during her second visit to Cox’s Bazar on Monday.


Since 25 August 2017, UK aid from British taxpayers has provided £129 million in funding to the Rohingya crisis and Mordaunt’s visit focused on exploring longer-term solutions by supporting education, developing skills and improving access to training opportunities.


During her meetings here, Mordaunt said she would push for the changes needed in Myanmar to help the Rohingyas return to their homes.


But, she said, now is the time to look beyond short-term live-saving assistance support, to give them the skills they need to create sustainable lives -- both for themselves and their families.


Minister Mordaunt said they will continue working to make sure that the conditions for people to go back are there in Rakhine and keep building national resilience to respond to weather events in Bangladesh.


She said they want to see Rohingyas’ desire to return home is fulfilled but the return requires favorable environment in Rakhine and elsewhere to ensure that they can live in peace and security; and the human rights issues are upheld.


Responding to a question, the British Minister said the UK has been and will remain so absolutely at the forefront of those efforts.


She said they will continue focusing on the efforts to try and get required conditions in Myanmar apart from addressing accountability issue. “It’s extremely important.”


Asked how the UK can help implement Bangladesh’s proposal to create a safe zone in Rakhine State, the Minister said they, like Bangladesh, clearly want to see the Rohingya crisis is resolved.


“I think whether it’s any kind of zone, camp or anything, that is back on the other side of the border, we need to ensure that the conditions are right before anyone can  go back,” Minister Mordaunt said adding that it is not just human rights issue but it is also a very practical issue.


Because, she explained, the last thing they want is for Rohingya people to start returning but they will feel insecure if there is more violence. “We’ll do everything we can to try and ensure that those (required) conditions (for return) are met.”


Responding to another question, the British Minister said access is incredibly important to Rakhine State and that is something they have been calling for. “It’s important as we want to see what’s happening there (on the ground). We’re very concerned about the continuing violence.”


The British Minister laid emphasis on building confidence among Rohingyas saying it is really important.


On environmental impact, she said there are some areas of concerns and clearly there has been an environmental impact on the camps. “We want to support as much as possible to reduce the impact.”


The British Minister said one of the purposes of her visit to Bangladesh to discuss on how to take forward the development partnership forward between the two countries. “Some really exciting things are happening.”


She said the UK is willing to strengthen its partnership with Bangladesh in various areas, including in the area of education and skill development.


The UK is providing vital humanitarian aid to many of the one million Rohingyas and vulnerable local communities in Cox’s Bazar.


Mordaunt said the major man-made humanitarian crisis has been ethnic cleansing on an industrial scale and urged the government of Myanmar to create the necessary conditions that would allow those Rohingya currently living in Bangladesh to return.


UK aid and donations from the generous British public are providing life-sustaining humanitarian assistance to many of the almost one million Rohingyas and vulnerable host communities in Cox’s Bazar.


She said the government and the people of Bangladesh have shown great generosity and humanity in hosting the Rohingya. “But we recognise that Bangladesh can’t shoulder this responsibility alone and I’m proud of the UK’s leading.”


The plight of the Rohingyas to return home must not fall off the international agenda and they must be given justice.


Mordaunt also visited the icddr,b, a world-renowned medical research centre which also houses a hospital specialising in cholera and other waterborne diseases.


UK aid supports the hospital’s research and the development of simple life-saving innovations such as breathing apparatus for small babies that was created using an empty shampoo bottle.


Experts at the hospital have also advised humanitarian workers in Yemen on how to treat deadly outbreaks of cholera, according to a media release.


Mordaunt’s visit builds on the 2017 Rohingya crisis when the British public donated “incredibly generously” towards the crisis through the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Appeal, raising £30 million, including £5 million matched pound-for-pound by the UK government.