A top-level US diplomatic delegation recently visited the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh's southern Cox's Bazar district, after first touring troubled Rakhine State in Burma, the scene of three-months of community unrest.
US officials said at a news conference in Dhaka on Thursday that the situation in Burma was still grave for the Rohingya people, and urged both countries to engage in productive talks.
The officials urged both both Burma and Bangladesh to work out a long-term solution to the refugee issue and stressed the need for food and basic healthcare to stateless Rohingya on both sides of the shared border.
US official Dan W. Mozena praised Bangladesh for its years of support to the Rohingya people but urged the country to do more for tens of thousands of undocumented Rohingya in Bangladesh.
Mozena, who did not visit Myanmar but went with the full delegation to the camps in Bangladesh, said the situation was “grim” among refugees outside the official camps who were deprived of basic needs, according to The Associated Press.
Some 28,000 Rohingya refugees live in two official camps in Cox's Bazar district, but tens of thousands of others live outside in makeshift dwellings and without proper care or facilities.
The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina earlier this year asked three international organizations to stop providing services to undocumented Rohingya to discourage fresh refugees from Burma. The government said cannot afford to take are of the refugees and it needs to take precautions because it has intelligence reports that some Islamic militant groups have targeted the Rohingya refugees for recruitment.
A US official, Kelly Clements, the deputy assistant secretary for Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, said displacement of Rohingya people was still rampant in the troubled region. But she praised Burma for allowing the delegation “unprecedented access” to tour the area.
She said reconciliation and reintegration of the ethnic groups in Rakhine State should be a top concern of both governments.
The US officials also pushed for continuous dialogue between Bangladesh and Burma.
Burma considers the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship. Bangladesh said Rohingya have been living in Burma for centuries and should be recognized there as citizens.
In the 1990s, about 250,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh in the face of alleged persecution by the military junta.
Later, Burma took back most of them, leaving some 28,000 in two camps run by the government and the United Nations.
Bangladesh has been unsuccessfully negotiating with Burma for years to send them back and, in the meantime, tens of thousands of others have entered Bangladesh illegally in recent years.