Rohingya refugees’ living conditions in Bangladesh are “grim” and the best solution would be eventual repatriation to Burma, according to a US delegation tasked with assessing conditions in the areas.
Speaking for the first time after being given rare access to Rakhine State and Rohingya refugee centers in Bangladesh, US delegation leaders said a long-term solution to the the Rohingyas’ plight is for the tens of thousands of refugees living in Bangladesh to eventually return to Burma.
“I look forward to the day when the situation in Burma is such that the refugees voluntarily, freely, safely, will want to go home,” said US Ambassador to Bangladesh Dan Mozena, according to a press conference transcript provided to Radio Free Asia (RFA) by the US State Department.
The press conference was held last week in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka.
The mission was aimed at determining the conditions in Rakhine State violence between Muslim Rohingyas and Buddhist Rakhines left more than 80 people dead and tens of thousands displaced.
“The extreme emotions that drove some of the events earlier this year are still very much in place,” said Kelly Clements, a deputy sssistant secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.
“Certainly some of the deprivations that have caused people to feel insecure will need to be addressed,” said Dan Baer, the deputy assistant secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
Tensions between the Rakhine and Rohingya groups are still “very real and threatening,” Mozena said.
He said dialogue between Bangladesh and Burma on the Rohingya situtation was encouraging but further talks were needed to resolve the “very difficult situation.”
“It is most, most and most encouraging to see the development of dialogue between Bangladesh and Burma,” he said.
Thein Sein was scheduled to visit Bangladesh in July, following a visit to Burma by Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in December, but he cancelled his trip after the violence erupted in Rakhine.
Clements said the long-term priority in the region should be reconciliation and the reintegration of Rohingya and Rakhine communities.
“The Burmese government is well aware that there are some deep-seated issues that need to be addressed between the communities in order for there to be a long-term solution,” Clements said.
Bangladesh must continue to keep its borders open to the refugees, Mozena said, stressing the urgent need for food and healthcare for the Rohingyas there.
Some 300,000 Rohingyas live in Bangladesh, which in August told aid groups to stop providing assistance in the camps because it encouraged more Rohingyas to come. Bangladesh recognizes only about 29,000 of the Rohingyas in its borders as refugees.
The US will support resettlement to a third country for some “extremely vulnerable” individuals in the camps, Clements said.