US and EU call on Burma to allow immediate humanitarian access to an impoverished Rohingya refugee camp in Arakan state, while Human Rights Watch criticises Thai immigration authorities for alleged complicity in a Rohingya smuggling operation.
Pope Francis issued a stinging criticism of atrocities against Burma’s Rohingya minority on Wednesday, saying they had been tortured and killed simply because they wanted to live their culture and Muslim faith.
China believes that Burma is now ready to take back hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims sheltering in Bangladesh who have fled violence in the former Burma, the Chinese government’s top diplomat tells his Bangladeshi counterpart.
Britain’s UN envoy suggests the UN Security Council could consider helping Burma collect evidence of crimes committed during a military crackdown of the Rohingya, denounced by the world body as ethnic cleansing after most recent bout of persecution of the Muslim minority last year.
UN Security Council envoys began a four-day visit to Bangladesh and Burma on Saturday to see firsthand the aftermath of a Burmese military crackdown that Britain, the United States and others have denounced as ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims.
A Burmese minister expressed concerns on Thursday about “very poor conditions” in Rohingya refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh, and said repatriation of the Muslim minority should start as soon as possible due to the coming monsoon season.
Burma on Saturday repatriated the first Rohingya family from nearly 700,000 refugees who have fled to Bangladesh, after months of fraught talks with Dhaka and amid the United Nations’ warnings that the country is not ready for their return.
Burma is not ready for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees, said the most senior United Nations official to visit the country this year, after Burma was accused of instigating ethnic cleansing and driving nearly 700,000 Muslims to Bangladesh.
Burma’s panel of international advisers on Rohingya issues says the coming monsoon season could bring “enormous deaths” as refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh are not built to withstand the storms.
Veteran US diplomat Bill Richardson has resigned from an international panel set up by Burma to advise on the Rohingya crisis, saying it was conducting a “whitewash” and accusing the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi of lacking “moral leadership.”
The UN refugee agency and other groups have urged a rethink of the plan to send Rohingya refugees back to Burma amid fears of forced repatriations and the inability of aid agencies to ensure the safety of hundreds of thousands who fled bloodshed at home.
Cases of men and women enslaved in bonded labour or trafficked for marriage have started to emerge in India after they managed to escape or were rescued and found their way to Rohingya settlements there.
Officials from Burma and Bangladesh meet on Monday to discuss how to implement a deal signed in November on the repatriation of more than 650,000 Rohingya who have fled Burma since late August. But many say fear returning.