WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley—a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—issued the following statement today regarding reports that the government of Bangladesh has set plans in motion to forcibly move thousands of vulnerable Rohingya refugees to Bhashan Char, an uninhabited and potentially unsafe island in the Bay of Bengal:
“For years, the Rohingya have suffered horrendous atrocities and scores of human rights violations in their native Burma. Now, we’re receiving disturbing and unacceptable reports that Bangladesh will forcibly remove thousands of these refugees—who are fleeing genocide—to a potentially dangerous, isolated detention center. Not only is Bashan Char flood-prone and smack in the middle of the path of intense cyclones, it is also in a remote location that will further complicate international efforts to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance to the refugees.
“The Rohingya have experienced unspeakable violence and displacement already, and the international community will be better able to meet their compelling humanitarian needs if they remain on Bangladesh’s mainland rather than on a remote island. We must join with the United Nations and other partners around the world to provide this persecuted group with much-needed assistance and support and to demand, together, the immediate halt of the dangerous relocation of these refugees.”
Senator Merkley has long advocated for the Rohingya—and led the first congressional fact-finding mission to Burma to meet refugees and investigate the roots of the crisis in 2017. Merkley has also called for the safe repatriation of refugees to Burma, and has demanded that the Trump administration condemn the Rohingya genocide and provide much-needed support to the Rohingya community, among other steps.