Dec 28, 2020
USCIRF Troubled with the Relocation of Rohingya Refugees to Bhasan Char Island
Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today expressed its concern over reports that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are being forced to relocate from Cox’s Bazaar to the cyclone and flooding prone island of Bhasan Char.
“We are concerned that many Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Burma are facing forced relocation to an area that is deemed unsafe by the United Nations,” stated USCIRF Vice Chair Anurima Bhargava. “The transfer of Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char island must be based on a voluntary and informed decision, not a pressured or coerced initiative on behalf of the Bangladesh government.”
While USCIRF, along with the U.S. Department of State, commends Bangladesh for providing refuge to millions of Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution and violence in Burma, USCIRF also recognizes the apprehension faced by Rohingya refugees in relocating to a flood-prone area that is disconnected from mainland Bangladesh.
USCIRF Commissioner Nadine Maenza added, “We are gravely concerned about the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. We understand the many challenges the Bangladeshi government is facing while hosting the Rohingya refugees, especially during a global pandemic. However, we urge the Bangladeshi government to respect voluntary movement and ensure that refugees have access to health, livelihood, education, and be protected from natural disasters, such as cyclones and flooding from monsoons.”
USCIRF hopes that conditions in Burma improve allowing the return of Rohingya Muslim refugees from Bangladesh to their homes and livelihoods. In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the U.S. Department of State continue to designate Burma as a Country of Particular Concern, due to Burma’s systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief that includes its persecution of the Rohingya. In October 2020, USCIRF released a factsheet on Rohingya refugees in Southeast Asia.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov.