Dr. Abdul Momen, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister, expressed skepticism regarding the US commitment to enhance Rohingya resettlement efforts. He emphasized that despite this, Dhaka remains focused on prioritizing the repatriation of the persecuted Rohingya minority.
The South Asian nation has sheltered about 1.2 million Rohingya refugees for the past six years, most of whom sought safety in the neighboring country after fleeing a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar in 2017.
Momen said that many countries had shown interest in taking in the Rohingya throughout the years, but the government had doubts over the realization of such initiatives, including the US pledge last week to increase the resettlement of Rohingya refugees.
“They have been saying this for the last several years. Initially, they talked of receiving 100,000 (Rohingya), which was later reduced to 30,000. But so far, they have only received 62 Rohingya in the last six years,” Momen told Arab News in a phone interview.
“They declare something but we don’t see the real results. They make promises, but they remain stuck … We have no objection over the idea of third-country resettlement of the Rohingya. Whoever wants to receive them, we welcome the decision (but) our number one priority is to repatriate the Rohingya to their homeland,” Momen said.
Most of the refugees live in dozens of cramped settlements in Cox’s Bazar District, a coastal region in the country’s southeast. Hosting the refugees costs Bangladesh about $1.2 billion per year.
Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are facing increasing uncertainty over their future and security concerns in Cox’s Bazar.
Earlier in June, the World Food Programme cut aid for the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to $8 per month, or 27 cents a day, citing a lack of funding. The UN body first reduced the rations in March from $12 to $10.
The return of the Rohingya to Myanmar has been on the agenda for years, but a UN-backed repatriation process had yet to take off despite pressure from Bangladesh amid dwindling financial support to host the large community.
“Right now, it’s difficult to make any concrete comments over progress on repatriation. On our part, we have done everything necessary for the repatriation,” Momen said.
The solution to the Rohingya crisis lies within Myanmar, said Humayun Kabir, former Bangladesh ambassador to the US.
“We welcome the good gestures of resettlement offers from our friends in the world. At the same time, we have to keep in mind that this is not the solution,” Kabir told Arab News.
“Whatever the number they receive, it’s certain that they (other countries) will not receive this 1 million people. Our efforts must go on for the repatriation of the Rohingya to Myanmar through which a sustainable solution will come.”
For Rohingya rights activist Mohammed Rezuwan Khan, offers of resettlement from countries such as the US are welcomed, as it will provide a chance for people from his community to get “a new life or better future.
“For us, repatriation is the number one solution,” Khan told Arab News. “But if it doesn’t take place anytime soon, a third country resettlement idea should be considered.”