‘No magic solution’ to Rohingya crisis says UN team in Bangladesh
Members of the Security Council delegation said they were ‘very concerned’ and would ‘work hard’ to help the Muslim refugees
A UN Security Council team visiting Bangladesh promised on Sunday to work hard to resolve a crisis involving hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled military-led violence in Myanmar.
The diplomats, who visited the sprawling camps and border points where about 700,000 Rohingya have taken shelter, said their visit was an opportunity to see the situation first-hand.
Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyansky, said he and his fellow team members would not look away from the crisis after their visit, though he warned that there were no simple solutions.
“It’s very necessary to come and see everything at place here in Bangladesh and Myanmar. But there is no magic solution, there is no magic stick to solve all these issues,” he said at a news conference at the Kutupalong refugee camp in the coastal town of Cox’s Bazar.
The team members will conclude their three-day visit to Bangladesh on Monday, when they leave for Myanmar.
The violence in Myanmar began when Rohingya insurgents staged a series of attacks on August 25 on about 30 security outposts and other targets. Myanmar security forces have been accused of rape, killing, torture and the burning of Rohingya homes in a subsequent crackdown described by UN and US officials as “ethnic cleansing”.
The diplomats, made up of representatives from the five permanent Security Council members – China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States – and 10 non-permanent member states, talked to some 120 refugees, including some who claimed to be rape victims.
Peru’s ambassador to the UN, Gustavo Adolfo Meza Cuadra Velasqez, said he and his fellow team members were ready to “work hard” and were “very concerned” about the crisis.
The refugees are seeking UN protection to return home. The UN refugee agency and Bangladesh recently finalised a memorandum of understanding that said the repatriation process must be “safe, voluntary and dignified … in line with international standards”.
Karen Pierce, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, said the Security Council would try to help the refugees return to Myanmar.
Rohingya are denied citizenship in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they have faced persecution for decades. They are derided as “Bengalis”, and many in Myanmar say they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Muslims in the overwhelmingly Buddhist nation mostly live in poverty in Rakhine state, next to Bangladesh.
Thousands of refugees gathered at the Kutupalong camp to welcome the visiting delegation. They carried signs, some of which said “We want justice.”
“We are not Bengali, we are Rohingya. They have killed my family members, they tortured us, they will kill us again,” said one of the refugees, 29-year-old Mohammed Tayab, who stood in front of a tent where he was waiting to meet the UN team.
Tayab, who was using crutches, said he was shot in his right leg by Myanmar troops. He claimed Myanmar soldiers shot dead his brother, uncle and a nephew.
“I am here to talk to them, we want justice from them,” he said of the diplomats. “I will tell them my stories. They should listen to us.”