Friday, June 10, 2011

U.S. Urged To Help Resolve Burmese Refugee Situation In Bangladesh

Bangladesh has formally requested the United States to exert diplomatic pressure on Myanmar to repatriate thousands of ethnic Muslim Rohingya languishing in refugee camps, a breeding ground of Islamic extremism and human trafficking. Food and disaster management minister Abdur Razzaque briefed journalists on Thursday after holding a meeting in Dhaka with visiting U.S. assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration Eric Schwartz. Dhaka requests Washington open consultations with Burma (now Myanmar) for the repatriation of some 300 ,000 documented and undocumented Rohingya refugees. The Burmese Muslims are housed in three camps near Cox’s Bazaar, the sea beach resort bordering Burma in the south-east. The camps are run by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees with support from international aid agencies. Schwartz categorically told Bangladeshi leaders that the solution to the repatriation of Rohingya refugees lies primarily with Bangladesh in encouraging Myanmar to move forward. The Bangladeshi minister instead insists that  the U.S. should exert pressure on the military junta for the repatriation of refugees. “We are already socially and economically burdened after hosting these refugees on humanitarian ground for so many years,” Razzaque told reporters. The visiting U.S. assistant secretary of state requested Bangladeshi authorities register the undocumented refugees as well. He said that the refugees are a political headache for the region, as well as for United States in the war on terror, adding that the camps are a breeding ground for Islamic militant recruits. Unless there is a change in the political situation in Myanmar, the United States will continue to support Bangladesh in sheltering the Rohingya refugees. Schwartz expressed concern over scarce food rations, inadequate shelter and poor healthcare facilities for the refugees who began entering Bangladesh in 1991 when the Myanmar junta drove away ethnic Muslims from the southern state of Rakhaine. Recognizing the issue as a humanitarian disaster, Schwartz said the regime in Myanmar systematically denies human rights and human freedom of the Rohingya and also of pro- democracy Burmese. An estimated 236 ,000 out of over 250 ,000 Rohingya refugees have returned to Myanmar in the early 1990 s, but persistent political persecution in their country have forced them again to take shelter in neighboring Bangladesh. The process for refugee repatriation was halted for years because of the reluctance of military authority in Myanmar.