Bangladesh So silent on Canadian offer to take Rohingya refugees: Officials lament

Image 📷©️Teletha May

(Annews24) Bangladesh is said to have declined an offer by Canada to take in Rohingya refugees – including women who were raped – Canadian officials said, as the South Asian country pushes ahead with controversial plans to repatriate the displaced to neighbouring Myanmar.

Canada offered to take in a limited number of vulnerable refugees in May when Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland visited Bangladesh, according to Canadian officials who added the proposal still stands.

“Freeland said Canada was willing to discuss cases with Bangladesh,” a Canadian official involved in the response to the Rohingya crisis, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue, told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“[Bangladesh Prime Minister] Sheikh Hasina said officials would look into it,” he said, adding discussions between the two government were ongoing, facilitated by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

The UN human rights investigator on Myanmar urged Bangladesh on Tuesday to drop plans to start repatriating hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees to Rakhine state this month, warning they would face a “high risk of persecution”.

More than 700,000 Muslim Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh from Buddhist-majority Myanmar, UN agencies say, after Rohingya rebel attacks on security forces in August 2017 were followed by a sweeping military response.

Experts working to protect Rohingya refugees said traumatised women who had been raped by Myanmar soldiers – some of whom have been ostracised after giving birth in the sprawling Bangladesh camps – would benefit from resettlement in Canada.

“It is the humanitarian thing to do,” said Laetitia van den Assum, a former Dutch diplomat who served on an international panel headed by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan to advise on the crisis in Rakhine state.

“If limited resettlement opportunities are available for this particular group, Bangladesh should think again and issue exit visas.”

The UN has documented a “frenzy of sexual violence” by Myanmar soldiers against Rohingya women and mass killings, calling for senior generals to face genocide charges. Myanmar rejected the findings as “one-sided”.