Antony Blinken’s Statement and Conundrum of Rohingya Repatriation: A Ray of Hope?

Five years have passed since the Rohingya people had undergone the ferocious campaign of genocide launched by the Myanmar government. More than 1.2 million people including women and children have been compelled to flee their homes leaving every penny of their belongings. As a neighbour country and more significantly, as a peace-fostering country, showing homage to international norms and principles, Bangladesh wholeheartedly opened the border, not resisting them from entering the country. 

Over the years, since the refugee influx began, Bangladesh looked after and managed all the basic needs, such as residence, primary education, meals, health security and so on, for the people. In this regard, although Bangladesh has remarkably been hailed for exhibiting the loftiest degree of humanity and compassion, the country has faced grave labyrinths of rise and fall in its socioeconomic and politico-economic situations because of sharing the larger fraction of the massive burden. 

However, the crucial stuff which has highly been craved for years regarding the crisis is the recognition of the Rohingya displaced people as victims of genocide and crime against humanity. By the time, though many countries earlier recognized the 1.2 million people as victims of genocide, the recognition of the United States was long-awaited. On March 21, after the recognition of Canada, the State Department of the US recognized the atrocity of Myanmar’s military against the Rohingya people as ‘genocide’ and ‘a crime against humanity.’ The foreign minister of Bangladesh welcomed the recognition and expressed his sole hope for the peaceful repatriation of the people, besides, this recognition helped the displaced people grow a firmed mindset for repatriation.

By contrast, this development, which could spur the way of repatriation, got receded due to the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine that brought about grave politico-economic upshots throughout the world. Not only by dwindling the spotlight of international media on the Rohingya crisis, but also by shifting a huge number of international donor agencies to the Ukraine crisis from the Rohingya crisis has resulted in a serious economic concern for the Bangladeshi policymakers. With a need of more than $881 million to support the Rohingya people, as of May, the Joint Response Plan became competent to arrange only 13% of the total amount. As a consequence of the paucity of funds and the conundrum of the socio-political milieu, the ‘go-home movement’ came forth from the Rohingya people themselves, in the camps of Ukhiya and Bhasan Char which gave rise to a positive vibe for repatriation. 

The Statement of Antony Blinken

Along with the alternative of third country resettlement, repatriation, however, is the primary and widely suitable approach to a permanent solution to this crisis in which the role of the external world is inexorable and indispensable. In peaceful and safe repatriation or third country resettlement, the role of the US and broadly, the Western world does matter to a vital degree. In this respect, the recent statement of the US Secretary, Antony Blinken has marked an optimistic gesture which is deemed, by experts, to prompt the peaceful paths of repatriation or third country resettlement that might have lessened the pressure of sharing the burden. 

On Aug. 25, Antony Blinken released a statement about the current state of the Rohingya crisis. Giving rise to hope for sharing the burden by third country resettlement of the considerable numbers of Rohingya people, Blinken said that the US is working to “significantly increase” resettlement. He said, “as an essential component of an international, comprehensive humanitarian response, we are working to significantly increase resettlement of Rohingya refugees from the region, including from Bangladesh so that they can rebuild their lives in the United States.” He further applauded the role of the UN Security Council in promoting justice, accountability, peace and security all over the world, particularly regarding upholding the humanitarian aspects of the vulnerable Rohingya people. He said, “….the United States would support a UN Security Council referral of the situation in Burma to the International Criminal Court.”

Significance of the US Support

Beyond any doubt, from the trajectory of world political perspective, the role of the US in the UNSC and UNGA has been paramount for years. Per a 2020 report, the country has been the biggest financial contributor to the UN peacekeeping with 27.89% of the entire UN budget. Moreover, in the other UN stalks such as UNHCR, UNDP, and UNHRC, the leading role of the US has always been bodacious and noteworthy. By utilizing such leverages, the US can bolster the way of third-country resettlement or to some extent, use forceful mechanisms to safely repatriate the displaced people. However, the crucial aspect is it doesn’t matter that whether the US keeps its commitment or not, the crucial matter is the great power keeps upholding its voice in favour of Bangladesh’s concerns. 

Not only by such robust lip service, but the US also economically assisted the Rohingya people since the refugee influx took place in 2017. Along with its prior contributions, in March 2022, the US declared $152 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the 1.2 million Rohingya people including 0.2 million host communities. Apart from economic assistance, political and trade-related aspects have also been at the centre of the US policy regarding the crisis. Imposing sanctions on Myanmar products and services along with military and police personnel has proved that the US has positive bona-fides in order to bring a permanent solution. Despite having geopolitical interests, the US has highly been vocal which helped Bangladesh effortlessly address the crisis on the global stage. 

The United States looks willing and capable of recuperating the lost superpower status through playing more active and concrete role in the domains of humanitarian support and global public goods. From that viewpoint, since the refugee influx began to pose, the country came forth with its vigorous voice and helping-hands. Regarding this current, the recent statement of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken would spur the way of safe repatriation or open room for effective measures for the third country resettlement which might lessen the socio-political burden on Bangladesh and more importantly opens a ray of hope for the Rohingyas, the largest stateless people on earth.

[Photo by the U.S. Department of State]

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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