The foreign secretary made his comments after a visit to the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh
UK’s Boris Johnson urges 'safe, dignified' return of Rohingya refugees
Britain’s foreign secretary has said it is “vital” that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh should be allowed to return to Myanmar “in safety and with dignity”.
Speaking on Saturday after a visit to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, where over a million Rohingya Muslim refugees are cramped into crowded and unsafe camps, Boris Johnson expressed his horror at the conditions in which they are living.
“I have seen for my own eyes the horrendous living conditions the Rohingya people are having to endure and it has only further strengthened my commitment to working with international partners to improve the lives of these people in 2018,” Mr Johnson said.
“While I welcome steps by both the Burmese and Bangladeshi governments towards ensuring that these people can return home, it is vital that the Rohingya refugees must be allowed to their homes in Rakhine voluntarily, in safety and with dignity, under international oversight, and when the conditions in Burma are right.”
Since last August, over 688,000 Rohingya people have fled slaughter in Myanmar to go to Bangladesh, joining around 340,000 Rohingya who had previously fled. The United Nations has described the situation as a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing.
Bangladesh and Myanmar reached an accord in November to start sending back the Rohingya.
However, many refugees have refused to go back unless their safety can be guaranteed and Myanmar grants their demands to be given citizenship and inclusion in a list of recognised ethnic minorities. They are also asking that their homes, mosques and schools that were burned down or damaged in the military operation be rebuilt.
Mr Johnson paid tribute to the “hospitality and compassion” shown by the Bangladeshi government, and acknowledged the “enormous challenge” it faces in providing humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya community.
Touring a camp which is home to 500,000 refugees, he met Rohingya families and community leaders to learn about the persecution they have suffered, and heard first-hand about the challenges that life in the camps presents. He also listened to the conditions they believed needed to be put in place for any return to take place.
Mr Johnson visited a UNICEF child-friendly site where he saw the efforts being made to keep young people safe. He was also briefed on gender-based violence by caseworkers.
On Sunday, Mr Johnson will hold talks with Myanmar's de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to discuss the crisis and press for the end to the suffering in Rakhine and the safe and voluntary return of the refugees.