Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has requested the British Secretary of State Elizabeth Truss to resettle one lakh Rohingya refugees who are now sheltered in Bangladesh.
He made the proposal during a bilateral meeting with Truss in Kigali, Rwanda, on the side-lines of a Commonwealth event yesterday.
Rohingyas can have a better life and Bangladesh’s unfair burden can be lessened if the United Kingdom, a global leader in justice and human rights could consider resettling one lakh Rohingya refugees, said Momen.
Truss thanked Bangladesh’s generous hosting of Rohingyas and responded that “while the UK could look into it, the best solution to the Rohingya crisis, however, lies in their safe and sustainable return to their homeland in Myanmar”.
Foreign Minister Momen briefed his British counterpart about the status of the protracted Rohingya crisis and stalemate in the process of their safe and sustainable return to Myanmar in the absence of political commitment of the Myanmar government.
Expressing the British Government’s concern at the current political turmoil in Myanmar, Liz Truss reiterated UK’s continued commitment to resolve the Rohingya crisis and assured that together with the ASEAN and fellow G7 countries, UK would increase pressure on Myanmar for a sustainable resolution of the Rohingya crisis.
Momen also gave historic references to earlier instances of en masse influx of Rohingyas into Bangladesh in the 70s and 90s, and their subsequent voluntary repatriation by Myanmar through agreements and accords with Bangladesh.
Foreign Minister Momen noted, “Myanmar took them back as they were under sanctions at that time by the West, which is not the present case, while UK and other western countries continue to invest heavily into Myanmar, despite living proof of their persecution of Rohingyas and adjudication of their justice at the ICJ”.
The UK which has made USD2.5 billion worth of investments into Myanmar just over the past three years and more than 500 million of bilateral trade, also needs to create pressure on Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas.
The two foreign ministers also reaffirmed the historic and value-based relations between Bangladesh and the UK since Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971, and agreed to jointly celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh-UK diplomatic relations through exchange of high-level visits and charting of an ambitious and ever-expanding Bangladesh-UK post-Brexit strategic partnership including advancing shared security interest at the Indian Ocean, enhanced trade and defence partnerships and higher education and research cooperation.
British Foreign Secretary expressed concern at the low number Bangladeshi students seeking higher education in the UK.
To mark 50 years of Bangladesh-UK diplomatic relations, both the ministers welcomed the proposals by the two foreign offices to jointly organise a Global Girls Education Summit, a climate leaders’ dialogue, and a Rohingya Conference in their capitals.
On post-Brexit trade relations with the UK, one of Bangladesh’s largest trade and investment partners, Foreign Minister Dr Momen sought an extension of the UK’s zero-duty GSP facility beyond 2029, especially given the losses suffered by Bangladesh’s apparel industry owing to post-pandemic cancellations, non-payments by UK retailers as well as the current cost of living index hike.
The two ministers agreed that under the Bangladesh-UK Tarde and Investment Dialogue the two countries should explore enhanced trade partnership and a future FTA.
Momen invited Secretary Truss to visit Bangladesh at the earliest opportunity, especially during the historic year of Bangladesh-UK diplomatic relations.
Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK Saida Muna Tasneem was present during the meeting.