DHAKA (19 December 2021) – Speaking at the end of his first official visit to the country, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, thanked and commended the Government of Bangladesh for providing Rohingya refugees with refuge from the atrocity crimes committed against them in Myanmar.
“The cause of this crisis, and the resolution of this crisis is not in Bangladesh, but in Myanmar,” stated the UN expert. “I will do everything in my capacity to push for a stronger, more coordinated international response to this crisis, including the imposition of pressure on the Myanmar military and for concrete measures to hold the military junta fully accountable for this crisis.
“Bangladesh saved untold numbers of lives when it opened its arms and hearts to Rohingya people who survived these most unspeakable of horrors inflicted on them by the Myanmar military. All who value human rights owe Bangladesh a debt of gratitude.”
During his mission, the UN expert met with refugees in Cox's Bazar refugee camps in Bangladesh as well as some of those relocated to Bhasan Char Island.
For the Rohingya, we must ensure their safe sustainable and voluntary return to their homeland in Myanmar, noted Andrews. “Nearly every Rohingya person I spoke with on this mission, whether in the Kutapalong Camps or on Bhasan Char, want to return home as soon as they can do so voluntarily, safely, sustainably, and with dignity,” he said.
Andrews offered a number of initial observations and recommendations formed during his mission. Andrews stressed, “The areas that emerged during my mission as particularly important for the Rohingya community include security, educational opportunity, access to health care, the creation of sustainable livelihood opportunities, and, especially with respect to Bashan Char, the importance of the principles of voluntariness and freedom of movement.”
“I firmly believe—and am offering as my most important finding and recommendation—that successfully addressing each of these key areas is in the interest not only of the Rohingya community, but of everyone who shares the goal of a successful and sustained repatriation of the Rohingya community back to where they most want to go, home.”
The Special Rapporteur commended Bangladesh for its partnership in accountability measures and noted how critical it was that “the rights and dignity of the Rohingya people be respected, protected and promoted.” Education and livelihoods, including in particular programs for women and girls, also provide meaningful outlet for refugees to live dignified lives. Andrews highlighted, “Education will provide Rohingya youth with opportunities that could deter them from negative coping mechanisms, reducing security vulnerabilities in the camps, and reducing security vulnerabilities for all.”
The Special Rapporteur visited Bashan Char island where the Government has so far relocated nearly 19,000 refugees. “It is clear to me from my conversations with Bangladesh officials, and observations on the island, that considerable resources have also been put into constructing the facilities on Bhasan Char. In view of the remote location of Bhasan Char, and the nascent humanitarian programming on the island, I would urge the Government of Bangladesh to make sure services that can meet the projected needs of the increased population are firmly in place before relocating more refugees, including, especially greater freedom of movement. I welcome the commitments made in the Memorandum of Understanding with the UN and urge they be put into practice.”
As an international community, we all have a responsibility to support the Rohingya. Bangladesh cannot and should not bear this responsibility alone. “A stronger commitment of resources is required for the Rohingya refugees and host communities. And the Government of Bangladesh needs and deserves a stronger international partnership.”
Andrews concluded, “I look forward to working with Bangladesh as a friend, to returning here to continue my reporting, and also to continue my conversations and engagement with the remarkable people here. Most of all, I look forward to returning to a Myanmar where justice, human rights and human decency finally prevail, and I can meet with the Rohingya community not as refugees but as citizens in their own country, Myanmar.”
Mr. Thomas Andrews (United States of America) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. A former member of the US Congress from Maine, Andrews is a Robina Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School and an Associate of Harvard University’s Asia Center. He has worked with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and parliamentarians, NGOs and political parties in Cambodia, Indonesia, Algeria, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine and Yemen. He has been a consultant for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma and the Euro-Burma Network and has run advocacy NGOs including Win Without War and United to End Genocide.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Comprising the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, Special Procedures is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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