By Samina Akhter
According to the announcement of the State Department, US State Department Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Immigration Julieta Valls Noyes arrived in Bangladesh on a four-day visit on Saturday (December 03). She visits the Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar. Considering the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, Valls Noyce will meet with government officials during her visit to Bangladesh for showing generosity by sheltering Rohingya and other refugees. She will also meet with the officials of private and international partner organizations to highlight the commitment of the United States to support the Rohingya refugees and the local people of the populated country who have received shelter in this country. On December 7, the US Assistant Secretary of State will leave Bangladesh for Thailand.
Julieta Valls Noyes took over as Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Immigration at the US State Department on March 31, 2022. Prior to this, she served as the Deputy Director and Acting Director of the Foreign Service Institute from 2018 to 2021. It should be noted that Washington has offered to permanently resettle more than half a hundred Rohingyas skilled in various jobs in the United States. Those displaced Myanmar nationals are currently under humanitarian shelter in Bangladesh in various refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. A list of more than half a hundred Rohingyas who have agreed to be resettled in the United States has also been recently shared with Dhaka.
Even after 5 years of displacement, the Western world, including the United States, is thinking of relocating some Rohingyas to their country permanently as there is no favorable environment for repatriation in Rakhine.
Initially, the United States will take some Rohingyas on a pilot basis. Its main purpose is to simplify the process. Once the process begins, more demand will come from the US at a later date.
During a recent visit to Dhaka, US State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Affairs Afrin Akhter told media outlets, ‘We are working in coordination with the Bangladesh government on the Rohingya rehabilitation plan. We have identified a number of Rohingya for resettlement in the United States, who are interested in going there. We are working on this. We have resettled about 10,000 Rohingyas from Malaysia, Thailand and other countries. I want to rehabilitate Rohingyas from Bangladesh in the same way. The United States is committed to Rohingya cooperation.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced the rehabilitation of the Rohingya in a statement on the fifth anniversary of Myanmar’s genocide against the Rohingya. He said that as an urgent part of the humanitarian response, the United States is working to increase the resettlement of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and other parts of the region in significant numbers. Its purpose is to enable them to rebuild their lives in the United States.
Before making this announcement, the United States sent a proposal to Bangladesh. Considering various aspects, Bangladesh did not agree at the beginning but later agreed. And requests the United States to take more Rohingya. In this context, the United States has initially given a pilot-based list. The relevant ministries and departments are working on this.
Since 2017, 500 to 600 Rohingyas have migrated to different countries of the world under family reunification. Along with the US, Canada has also offered to rehabilitate the Rohingya from Bangladesh.
Every year a Bangladesh-led Joint Response Plan (JRP) is developed to fund the Rohingya. The United States will be asked to plan JRP for several years in the meeting with Bangladesh. The country has already offered this to Bangladesh.
Due to various global crises, including Ukraine crisis, it has become difficult for the United States to allocate money separately for the Rohingya every year. They want to stand by Bangladesh in the Rohingya crisis. And for this, instead of a one-year JRP, it has proposed a multi-year JRP, so that they can commit in advance.
The United States has contributed the most to the Rohingya crisis so far. At this year’s UN General Assembly, the US Secretary of State announced $170 million in additional humanitarian aid. Since 2017, the country has contributed more than 190 million dollars to the Rohingya crisis.
United States wants to resettle Rohingya from Bangladesh. Julieta Valls Noyes, Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Immigration of the US Department of State come Bangladesh for this purpose. During her visit to Bangladesh, Julieta will meet at various levels of the government on rehabilitation including visiting the Rohingya camps. That being said, there are several reasons why Julieta’s visit is promising for Bangladesh. It would be appreciated if the US administration works with Bangladesh government. It will reflect better mutual understanding between both administrations. The west and well-wishers of the promotors of humanitarian issues can follow the US footprint.
Bangladesh has helped avert a major regional crisis by sheltering more than 7 million Rohingya who have fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar since August 2017. Providing food and shelter to this large number of refugees was not an easy task for the Bangladesh government. Bangladesh liberally opened its borders. Even though it faces financial, environmental and security challenges, the government is working hard to ensure that these displaced people can have a safe life in the refugee camps. Five years have passed since Bangladesh signed the repatriation agreement with Myanmar in November 2017. But the Myanmar government has not done anything for the safe return of the Rohingyas and the silence of the international community on this issue is sad. Again in 2018, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) signed a tripartite agreement with Myanmar to create favorable conditions for the safe return of the Rohingya. But the Myanmar government is yet to confirm that.
Bangladesh has developed housing and other facilities for the relocation of Rohingya to Bhasanchar in Noakhali to address landslide risk, drug smuggling, human trafficking, gender-based violence and conflict, as well as environmental degradation in the refugee camps area. But the silence of Myanmar and the international community on their repatriation is disappointing. Particularly, the insufficient stance of Bangladesh’s two giant neighbors (India and China) in the Rohingya issue is disappointing. In such a context, the announcement of the United States to rehabilitate the Rohingyas will raise optimism. Through this, it is expected that the international community will show sincerity in solving the Rohingya problem in Bangladesh and the world conscience will be awakened.
According to the news published at the same time, the United States has given a list of half a hundred Rohingyas based on their families. Initially, the United States will take some Rohingyas on a pilot basis. Its main purpose is to simplify the process. Once the process begins, more demand will come from the US at a later date. Earlier, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced the rehabilitation of the Rohingya in a statement on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the genocide in Myanmar. Since 2017, 500 to 600 Rohingyas have migrated to different countries of the world under family reunification. Along with the US, Canada has also offered to rehabilitate the Rohingya from Bangladesh. The United States has contributed the most to the Rohingya crisis so far. Since 2017, the country has contributed more than 190 million dollars to the Rohingya crisis. Out of the large number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, the resettlement of 600 Rohingya is not a big thing in terms of numbers, but it has a lot of political importance.
There is no dispute that diplomacy should be given the highest priority so that the Rohingya refugees can return safely to their homes as soon as possible. We look forward to the formation of committees for careful repatriation and the sincere implementation of earlier agreements. On the one hand, we have yet to find any convincing indication of fundamental humanitarian change in Myanmar’s ruling Rohingya policies. On the other hand, there is no sign of imposing sanctions or blockades or putting pressure on the mindless criminal elements of the regime without endangering the people of the country. Rather, the flow of Rohingya refugees is still ongoing. For this reason, the question is very relevant that the refugee repatriation agreement with Bangladesh is their strategic initiative? Or are they serious about taking back refugees?
In September this year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called on the United Nations to take concrete steps for sustainable Rohingya repatriation. She expressed deep concern over Rohingya repatriation as the international community’s attention gradually shifted to Myanmar’s new global and internal conflicts. Now when the Rohingya resettlement process of the United States begins, the depth of the Rohingya problem will appear again in front of the world. The United Nations and international partners need to take concrete steps and projects to create an enabling environment for the sustainable repatriation of Rohingyas. For this, proper diplomatic activities should be strengthened on the part of Bangladesh. Bangladesh needs to be exposed to the world at large risk by harboring a large number of Rohingya population. At the diplomatic level, there should be an effective discussion with the friendly countries to resolve the Rohingya problem. It needs to be established that the Rohingya problem is not just a problem of Bangladesh and Myanmar – it is humanitarian and global.