Peace, security in Rakhine must for Rohingyas’ voluntary return

Peace and security are yet to be restored in Myanmar’s Rakhine State for “voluntary return” of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas to their homeland from Bangladesh, observed Penny Mordaunt, international development secretary of the UK.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Star on Sunday, during her three-day visit to Bangladesh, the DFID minister also said her government does not see any chance of immediate repatriation of the Rohingyas as their persecution is still ongoing in Myanmar where their homes have been burnt to the ground.

“This is not a crisis going to be resolved swiftly. It is clear to me refugees are going to be here for some time. All have to be very practical about this.”

The focus has to be on creating a condition that will enable their safe and sustainable return. “We need to ensure that Bangladesh is properly supported to do that,” Penny said, urging the international community to step up their support to resolve the Rohingya crisis.

Yesterday, after she visited camps in Bangladesh where Rohingyas took refuge to flee ethnic cleansing in their country, the UK minister announced a further £12m in aid for the persecuted Rohingyas.

Over 6,22,000 Rohingyas have taken shelter in Bangladesh amid persecution by Myanmar security forces since August 25. The UN has termed the atrocities a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

On Nov 23, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a bilateral agreement in Naypyitaw to begin repatriation of the Myanmar citizens in two months.

As part of UK’s efforts to assess and resolve the Rohingya crisis, Secretary Penny Mordaunt flew to Bangladesh and visited several Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar on Saturday. This is her first overseas visit since she was appointed as international development secretary on November 9.

Referring to the “harrowing” stories of “torture and sexual abuse” she heard from many victims at the Rohingya camps, Penny said it is imperative to take the refugees’ views into account. ”Everyone I spoke [with] wants to return, but they can only do so if they have peace and security.”

“If we pretend that people are going home in [a] couple of months, that will be a disservice to Bangladesh.”

“We need to think long term. How we can build peace and security, which is necessary for the refugees to stay there,” she said, adding, “We need to be very very practical about this. The people we met yesterday [Saturday] are very very traumatised.”

Most importantly, there must be peace and security and it is necessary to ensure that Rohingyas are not going to be injured again, the minister said.

UK APPROVES ADDITIONAL AID FOR DISPLACED ROHINGYAS

UK Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt yesterday announced an additional £12m in aid for the forcibly displaced Rohingyas, bringing the total UK support to £59 million since Aug 25.

“The persistent persecution of the Rohingya people must stop. It is horrifying that hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children have had their homes burnt to the ground, and parents have been forced to helplessly watch as their children die from hunger,” Penny said yesterday.

“This looks like ethnic cleansing. The Burmese military must end this inhumane violence and guarantee unrestricted humanitarian access so aid can reach those in need in Burma. Any return of families to their homes must be safe, voluntary and dignified.”

“Global funding to support the Rohingya people will only meet urgent needs for the next 100 days — we cannot turn our backs on those trapped in crisis,” the minister said, adding, “Other countries must follow our lead and do even more to help children overcome the trauma of war, reunite them with their families and give a future to the next generation.”

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