United States Assistant Secretary for Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration Eric P Schwartz on Thursday said the solution to the Rohingya refugees issue in Bangladesh lies in Myanmar and the voluntary return of the refugees to the country.
“Nobody should be forced to return against their will to a place where their lives and their freedom will be in danger,” he said at a press conference at the American Centre in the city.
“But, voluntary return of Rohingya in large numbers will only be possible when the basic rights of these people will be safeguarded. And sadly today that is not the case,” he said.
Until such change comes in Burma, the United States will continue to do what we can do to assist the government and the people of Bangladesh to assist the Rohingya,” he added.
Eric P Schwartz arrived in Dhaka on Tuesday on a three-day visit to the country to explore issues relating to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and in the region.
During his visit, he met with Rohingya camp officials in Cox’s Bazar, officials of adjoining community areas, members of the local communities, representatives of international organisations and non-governmental organisations along with several ministers and top government officials.
He said the US and other donors would only provide assistance that the Bangladesh government would deem useful.
“Ultimately, decisions on what assistance will or will not be provided will be sovereign decision of the government of Bangladesh,” he said.
He expressed the US government’s appreciation towards the Bangladesh government and its people for hosting the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who have fled prosecution in South Western Myanmar.
The regime in Myanmar systematically denies human rights and human freedom of the Rohingyas, he said.
This is a humanitarian problem, which has a political solution, he said.
“Until there is a political solution, it is upon all of us to try and provide assistance to the victims,” he said.
“I think it’s critical for all of us to remember and emphasise that these individuals are guilty of nothing other than a desire to flee repression and create a better life for themselves and for their families,” he added.