Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:27 pm on 20th December 2018.

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Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State 3:27 pm, 20th December 2018

I agree with my hon. Friend, who has been to the camps on several occasions and has probably seen the degradation of process in that regard. I say again that, for the reasons set out by Rushanara Ali, we absolutely oppose plans for moving any Rohingya to Bhasan Char, the island in the bay of Bengal. We do not feel that that would be a safe or feasible place, for the reasons that she set out. Any location or relocation of refugees has to be safe, dignified and in accordance with international humanitarian principles, standards and laws.

As colleagues will know, the Governments of Bangladesh and Burma were preparing to start a refugee repatriation on 15 November. I spoke as a matter of urgency by telephone with Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister and I spoke with both the Bangladeshi State Minister of Foreign Affairs and Burma’s Minister for International Co-operation in advance of that day. I was absolutely clear with each of them that the UK Government shared the assessment of the UN Refugee Agency: that insufficient progress had been made to enable safe returns to northern Rakhine.

Our concerns were also borne out by the fact, brought up by many hon. Members today, that no Rohingya refugees volunteered to return. I believe that international pressure at that point was a key factor in halting any involuntary repatriations. I welcome the Bangladeshi Government’s subsequent reaffirmation of their commitment to exclusively voluntary returns, but we all know in the international community that we will have to remain vigilant about that point.

I can reassure Members that the UK will continue to play a full part in supporting Rohingya refugees as a leading donor to the international humanitarian response, to which we have so far donated £129 million.