U.S. Supports Safe Return of Rohingya to Burma

Nov 15, 2017

As part of the continuing U.S.-Bangladesh Partnership Dialogue, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas A. Shannon recently met with Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque in Dhaka. They discussed further strengthening the U.S.-Bangladesh political, economic and energy partnership, and counterterrorism cooperation. They also discussed the North Korean nuclear threat and U.S. assistance for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

During the meeting, Under Secretary Shannon thanked the government of Bangladesh for its generosity in responding to the refugee crisis in Burma's Rakhine State, and expressed appreciation for its efforts to ensure assistance reaches the refugees in Bangladesh.

Rohingya refugees walk through the Kutupalong refugee camp area, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Nov. 6, 2017.
Rohingya refugees walk through the Kutupalong refugee camp area, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Nov. 6, 2017.

More than 600,000 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh from Burma's Rakhine State since late August, amid brutal violence by the Burmese military and local vigilantes acting in concert with the security forces, in what the UN has called "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Simon Henshaw, Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration recently visited refugees and internally displaced people in Burma and Bangladesh. Henshaw praised Bangladesh's government and its people for supporting the refugees, and urged the Government of Burma to establish conditions that will allow for the safe, voluntary, and dignified return of refugees to their own home, and their own land.

Henshaw said, “Responsibility for repatriation lies with the government of [Burma]. It is responsible for starting up the process and making sure that they are providing the safe and secure area for people to voluntarily return.”

The United States is deeply concerned over the well-being of those who have fled and has provided nearly $40 million in humanitarian aid for refugees, host communities, and persons internally displaced in response to the Rakhine State crisis since August 25. This brings the total U.S. humanitarian assistance for displaced persons in Burma and refugees from Burma in the region, to nearly $104 million in fiscal year 2017.

The United States continues to call on Bangladeshi and Burmese officials to develop a framework for the safe and voluntary return of Rohingya communities to Burma. The United States urges rapid and complete implementation of the Annan Commission's recommendations, including urgent provision of humanitarian and media access throughout Rakhine State and ensuring accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations, with a view towards creating conditions for long term peace and development in Rakhine State.