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Rohingya Relocation: US wants to see UN study findings on Bhasan Char

The United States has said it looks forward to the UN technical study of Bhasan Char, which will evaluate its “technical, security, and financial” feasibility to serve as an additional locale for Rohingyas.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick and acting assistant secretary of State Alice G Wells who wrapped up their three-day on Thursday evening, discussed the Rohingya issue and ways to find a sustainable solution during their stay here.

A technical team of the UN agencies will visit Bhasan Char soon to assess the facilities and other relevant issues on relocation of Rohingyas there.

Representatives from the Rohingya community are likely to be taken during the planned visit, officials said.

In her meetings with government of Bangladesh officials, acting assistant secretary Wells stressed that the solution to the Rohingya crisis remains in Myanmar and condemned the inaction by Myanmar authorities to create conditions for voluntary, safe, and dignified returns, said the US Embassy in Dhaka on Thursday night.

Wells underscored that the United States will continue its bilateral and multilateral efforts to bring a conclusion to this refugee crisis.

Bangladesh said Rohingyas will have a better living in Bhasan Char once relocated there reiterating that it “will not force” any of the displaced people to avail of the relocation opportunity.

“We wanted to avoid the risk as they (Rohingyas) die in landslides in the crowded camps. They’ll have a better living if they go there (Bhasan Char),” Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen conveyed to acting assistant secretary Wells during a meeting held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.

The government has a plan to accommodate 100,000 Rohingyas in Bhasan Char which is ready now for living, as newly-built shelters will offer educational and livelihood options and help decongest the present camps.

The cluster in Bhasan Char comes with multistorey buildings, a typical model that is hugely successful in coastal belt.

The Foreign Minister said he wanted to know from the US official how they can help to ensure the repatriation of Rohingyas.

The US side said they are “fully engaged” with the Rohingya issue and they want to see the issue is resolved.

Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas who have fled their homeland in Rakhine State after being persecuted by their own country.

Myanmar did not take back a single Rohingya from Bangladesh over the last two years but Myanmar, in its attempts to “mislead” the international community, claimed that a total of 397 displaced people have voluntarily returned from Bangladesh to Myanmar.

Two repatriation attempts were unsuccessful as Myanmar “failed to remove trust deficit” among the Rohingyas and there was “lack of conducive environment” in Rakhine for their return.

Both Deputy Administrator Glick and acting assistant secretary Wells traveled to Cox’s Bazar on Thursday to meet with key partners and stakeholders concerning the Rohingya crisis response and observe US-supported programmes to assist Rohingyas and impacted host communities.

The two officials viewed US government activities supporting the refugee response, including a US-supported learning center to observe classroom activities in the camps; a USAID-supported community cooking and learning center, which provides women with a common space to cook safely on gas stoves, learn useful life skills, and build community support networks; and a USAID-supported food shop that gives refugees the chance to select for themselves diverse and nutritious foods using electronic vouchers.

Both also met with UN partners to discuss the assistance efforts led by international organisations and NGOs.

Deputy Administrator Glick visited host communities in Cox’s Bazar, where USAID assistance is helping to increase business opportunities by improving agricultural practices and income prospects in aquaculture, livestock, and other industries; providing primary health care services; and countering human trafficking by raising awareness, supporting victim shelters, and improving living conditions of survivors by expanding income opportunities.

She also visited a USAID-supported shelter focused on limiting human trafficking and providing support services to survivors, and met with local women who suffer from health and nutrition problems caused by poor sanitation and learned how sanitary latrines are helping them improve hygiene in the community.

Deputy Administrator Glick and acting assistant secretary Wells stressed the US government’s commitment to stand with Bangladesh as it hosts over 1.1 million Rohingya community members.

The United States is the leading contributor of humanitarian assistance in response to the Rohingya crisis, providing more than $669 million since the escalation of violence in August 2017; more than $553 million of that funding is for programs inside Bangladesh, said the US Embassy.

This assistance supports local Bangladeshi communities, Rohingyas, internally displaced persons, and other affected communities.

The United States continues to call on others to join in contributing to this humanitarian response.