Chairman Crowley, Rep. Chabot Ask United Nations to Oppose Premature Repatriation of Rohingya Refugees

Jan 25, 2018 Issues: Foreign Affairs

(Queens, N.Y.) – House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), along with 19 bipartisan Members of Congress, sent a letter to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres asking that the UN strongly oppose any repatriation plan that would put innocent Rohingya civilians in harm’s way.

The assault on the Rohingya people by Burma’s military and security services has forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. While plans to return refugees this month have been delayed, reports from the region have indicated efforts to return refugees are underway. This repatriation would put men, women, and children at risk of violence without genuine safeguards.

“It would be the height of cruelty to forcibly return those who have just fled some of the worst state-sponsored atrocities in the world. There is every reason to be concerned that Rohingya men, women, and children will face severe short and long-term danger if they are to return absent adequate safeguards,” the lawmakers wrote. “Instead, all returns must be voluntary, safe, dignified, and in line with international standards. The involvement of international organizations, as well as international observers on both sides of the border, is essential.”

In August 2017, Burma’s military and security services began carrying out attacks against Rohingya civilians, which led to more than 650,000 people fleeing their homes. This ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Rohingya include the murder of men, women, and children, horrific gang-rapes, and the wholesale, systematic destruction of villages.

In the letter, the lawmakers reiterated concerns that there has not been meaningful action by Burma’s authorities to acknowledge accountability for the attacks or address underlying issues such as equal rights, citizenship, freedom of movement, and return to lands, and that authorities in Burma have diminished transparency in Rakhine State by arresting journalists covering the Rohingya crisis and blocking access to UN authorities.

The letter was signed by House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-MI), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY), Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Rep. James P. McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-RI).

The full text of the letter can be found here.