The senators also lauded how Bangladesh managed the crisis including limiting the spread of infectious disease and minimising loss of life to natural disasters. They also welcome the government’s efforts to inoculate over 35,000 Rohingya against Covid-19.
“Without taking away from these laudable efforts, we write to you to discuss concerns about humanitarian access, education and livelihood opportunities, and relocations to Bhasan Char,” the letter reads.
“We understand from discussions with numerous stakeholders that limitations on the movements of humanitarian workers and Rohingya volunteers have impeded the delivery of important social services in Cox’s Bazar. While we acknowledge the need for caution and some restrictions due to the COVID pandemic and we understand that Bangladesh has recently relaxed some of those restrictions, we want to stress that it remains critical that humanitarian actors and Rohingya volunteers have ongoing access to the camps to ensure that refugees continue to receive basic social services and protections," it adds.
“We are particularly concerned about the protection environment given the broader feelings of insecurity that refugees, especially women, are expressing as a result of criminal and militant groups operating in the camps and recent fires.”
The senators also urged the Bangladesh government to bring the killers of Rohingya leader Mohib Ullah to the book saying, “We also note with great sadness the murder of Mohib Ullah in Cox’s Bazar and urge the government to work in a transparent manner to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice as well as to redouble efforts to ensure that criminal groups are not able to operate with impunity in the camps.”
On the relocation of Rohingyas to Bhasan Char, the senators wrote, “We note the Government of Bangladesh’s significant investments to develop Bhasan Char and welcome the recent announcement that your government has concluded a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. It is imperative that your government take all steps to implement this MOU, including provisions allowing for freedom of movement for Rohingya Refugees on Bhasan Char. Nonetheless, we are troubled by recent reports that some Rohingya that have attempted to escape from Bhasan Char were detained and returned to the island, and that others were relocated to Bhasan Char against their will, which would go against your Government’s stated commitments to a voluntary process in which refugees are able to give fully informed consent.”
The senators also urged the government to allow independent monitoring of the relocation process and encourage the authorities to allow the UN to conduct a comprehensive technical assessment of Bhasan Char’s habitability.
“We do not support the forced relocation of Rohingya to Bhasan Char and have prohibited the use of funds to support such a policy,” the senators stated.
The senators said they are prepared to help Bangladesh attain sufficient international support and resources to help both Rohingya and affected Bangladeshi communities in Cox’s Bazar.
They also expressed their willingness to encourage meaningful consideration of resettlement options of Rohingyas in a third country and hold Myanmar accountable for addressing the root causes of the crisis in Rakhine and for atrocities committed against the Rohingya and continue to urge the international community including their own country to respond strongly to the coup in the country.
“As elected representatives of the United States, the largest donor to the humanitarian response in Cox’s Bazar, we look forward to continuing to work with you to find durable solutions to this crisis,” the US senators wrote in the letter.