Along with a Portuguese MEP, José Inácio Faria, I hosted a roundtable with NGOs and diplomats to discuss potential solutions to the proposed repatriation of the Rohingya.
More than 720,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar. There were considerations by Bangladesh of sending back refugees back to Myanmar. Thankfully, this movement has now been postponed.
However, the cruel system of discrimination and segregation that made the Rohingya so vulnerable in the first place has not been dismantled yet. Returns can only be organised if there is a guarantee that they are safe, voluntary, and dignified. As things currently stand, none of those conditions have been met, despite claims to the contrary by both the Myanmar. Unless the Rohingya can enjoy equal rights and citizenship in Myanmar and the extreme human rights violations they have suffered stop, they should not go back.
Unfortunately, this will not happen any time soon and the situation in Bangladesh refugee camps is not safe, adequate, or sustainable. We need a long-term solution for all those living in the Cox Bazar.
That is why, we, as the international community have an important role to play, and that is what we discussed during the event. We need keep the topic high on the agenda and put pressure on all the stakeholders to ensure that returns are not forced, but also to push Myanmar to create the conditions which would allow for safe, voluntary, and dignified returns. The international community must also do much more to support Bangladesh and share the responsibility and financial burden of hosting almost a million refugees. We need to assist the Bangladeshi government in exploring all options to ensure continued international protection for the Rohingya community. It is essential to encourage them to register the Rohingya who have fled Myanmar as refugees, ensure their access to adequate education, health care, and food, water and sanitation, and enable greater freedom of movement to allow refugees to engage in livelihood activities outside the camp.