By Md. Kamruzzaman
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - A top British official on Tuesday urged Myanmar’s authorities to ensure a safe environment for the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of persecuted Rohingya Muslims who fled the country since August 2017.
“This major man-made humanitarian crisis has been ethnic cleansing on an industrial scale and I urge the government of Burma [Myanmar] to create the necessary conditions that would allow those Rohingya currently living in Bangladesh to return,” Penny Mordaunt, Britain’s international development minister, told reporters in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, on Tuesday after visiting Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, some 278 kilometers (173 miles) from Rakhine state, Myanmar.
Mordaunt, the first British Cabinet minister to visit Bangladesh since the country’s elections late last year, met Rohingya refugees living in Kutupalong camp at a food distribution center, spoke with women being protected from violence, and saw how children with disabilities were getting the therapy and treatment they need, supported by U.K. aid, according to a British press release.
British aid has provided £129 million to Bangladesh in funding to address the refugee crisis, said the press release.
Mordaunt added: "The plight of the Rohingya refugees to return home must not fall off the international agenda and they must be given justice."
Mordaunt was accompanied by Bangladeshi State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shariar Alam, who spoke of new strategies for peaceful repatriation of the Rohingya, but gave no specifics, local media reported.
Mordaunt’s visit to the camp also focused on exploring longer-term solutions by supporting education, developing skills, and improving access to training opportunities, according to a press release by the U.K. High Commission in Dhaka on Tuesday.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.
The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings – including of infants and young children – brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.
In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.