Anne Main MP lamented Burmese treatment of the Rohingya refugees and has continued her campaign for upholding human rights and welfare protections for the stateless Rohingya during a debate in Westminster yesterday.
Mrs Main recounted the ‘atrocious conditions’ she witnessed during her recent visit to the Rohingya refugee camps, and expressed her praise for the UK government’s support for the refugees.
The UK government is the largest bilateral donor to the crisis with over £59 million being sent to the aid effort.
The St Albans MP welcomed the recent news of a delay in the implementing of the ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ between Bangladesh and Burma. This agreement has been widely criticised as ‘rushed’ and that it ‘does not provide adequate safeguards’ for the Rohingya refugees upon their return to Rakhine state. The UK government has echoed these concerns, stating that conditions for a ‘safe, voluntary and dignified’ return for the Rohingya have not been met by Burmese authorities.
‘I am pleased that [current repatriation plans] are no longer being considered. The memorandum of understanding does not even mention the word “Rohingya”. How can there be no voice for the Rohingya at the negotiating table?’
Mrs Main added, ‘It is totally unacceptable that the oppressors, who are land-mining the border and driving people out with machine guns, and who have denied these people their rights since 1982, should be divvying up the role of the Rohingya and their future.’
Anne praised the ‘humanity and love’ shown by the Bangladeshi people during this crisis and urged the government to do everything it could to ‘get a seat at the table’ for the oppressed and voiceless Rohingya.
In his response, the foreign office minister, Mark Field praised Mrs Main’s ‘passionate’ speech and echoed her recommendation of having Rohingya representation during the repatriation negotiations.
The Minister said, ‘If the returns are to be genuinely voluntary, there must be a consultative process to establish the refugee’s intentions and concerns.’
He continued, ‘I assure the House that I am working within the international community to develop a coherent strategy that will begin to hold to account those who have committed what independent observers regard as crimes against humanity.’
After the debate, Mrs Main praised the ‘enthusiasm’ that the Minister and this government have shown in trying to help solve this humanitarian crisis.
‘It’s good to hear that the government shares my concerns about the lack of Rohingya representation during this repatriation process. We must continue to push at UN level for further protections for the refugees and, ultimately, other countries should follow our lead and contribute more to the disaster relief fund.’