Boris Johnson: Rohingya refugees need safe way back

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Myanmar must find a safe and dignified way for Rohingya Muslims to return, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said.

Myanmar must find a safe and dignified way for Rohingya Muslims to return, the UK foreign secretary has said, after meeting the government of Bangladesh.

Boris Johnson has been visiting camps on the Bangladesh border that hold the refugees who fled Myanmar to escape a military crackdown.

Nearly 700,000 people have left since the action began last August.

Mr Johnson will now fly to Myanmar, where he is due to meet de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Sunday.

More than 500,000 refugees are currently living in Cox's Bazar camp in Bangladesh - equivalent in size to Leicester.

International oversight

Mr Johnson toured the camp and afterwards said the "horrendous living conditions" further strengthened his commitment to finding a solution.

Image source, AFP
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Boris Johnson visited Cox's Bazar refugee camp as part of the first official trip to Bangladesh by a foreign secretary in a decade

The foreign secretary paid tribute to the "hospitality and compassion" of the Bangladeshi government in providing humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya community, but emphasised refugee rights must be respected.

"It is vital that the Rohingya refugees must be allowed to their homes in Rakhine voluntarily, in safety and with dignity, under international oversight, and when the conditions in Burma are right," he said.

Earlier Mr Johnson met Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali.

"I was really struck by how Bangladesh and the UK really share a common analysis of what needs to be done. We need to make those points together to the government in Nay Pyi Daw," he said.

The United Nations has described the exodus of Rohingya people from Rakhine state, and the military offensive which provoked it, as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

Two-year plan

Neighbouring Bangladesh has agreed a timeframe with Myanmar for repatriating Rohingya people.

But aid agencies have expressed concern over the projected figures for the transfer - Myanmar has agreed to accept 1,500 Rohingya each week; Bangladesh says it aims to return everyone within two years.

And the refugees are worried about the conditions and their rights upon their return.

Image source, AFP
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Mr Johnson met young refugees at the camp ahead of diplomatic talks to attempt to resolve the crisis

When Mr Johnson meets Ms Suu Kyi on Sunday he is expected to discuss the Rakhine crisis and press for the safe return of refugees.

Mr Johnson will also meet the chair of the Advisory Board on the Rakhine Advisory Commission, Surakiart Sathirathai. It is looking at the problems in Rakhine state.

Britain is one of the biggest direct donors of aid for the humanitarian effort to help the refugees.

The foreign secretary's trip to Bangladesh is the first such official visit in a decade.

He will go on to Bangkok, Thailand, for talks with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.