The Rohingya crisis puts Bangladesh under enormous pressure, says the Swiss President

Courier Report
Thursday, February 8th, 2018


Swiss President Alain Berset among children of child education centre of UNICEF at Cox’s Bazar on 6 February 2018 (PID)

 

Swiss President Alain Berset, who visited Dhaka on February 4-7, has called for the full implementation of the report of the Advisory Commission chaired by Kofi Annan to protect Rohingyas and ensure their safe return to Myanmar.

 

He said a refugee crisis of this scale had put Bangladesh and the international community under enormous pressure to provide shelter and the most urgent services to more than 688,000 people.

 

“Switzerland is working closely with Bangladesh, UN agencies and other development partners in order to respond to this crisis,” said the Swiss President during his visit to Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar district on February 6.

 

Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor, Swiss Ambassador in Dhaka Rene Holenstein accompanied the Swiss President in Cox’s Bazar.

President Berset, who was on a four-day official tour, visited Rohinga camp to gain a first-hand insight into the ongoing humanitarian crisis and listened to stories of sufferings from Rohingyas. The Swiss President also visited the Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital which received Swiss contributions.

 

President Berset extended his appreciation for the enormous efforts being undertaken by Bangladesh government to welcome and host the communities from Myanmar.

 

Placing emphasis on voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingyas to their places of origin, he expressed his concern over about outbreak for the younger generation and the situation of the women, children who need increased protection.

 

Earlier, the Swiss President went to the Sadar Hospital to officially handover the Swiss contributions, including hospital beds and medical equipment support to the hospital management.

 

He highlighted the important role played by the doctors and the staff of this hospital in providing much needed medical treatment to patents from the host community as well as the Rohingya arrivals.

 

The Swiss president said Switzerland pledged eight million Swiss francs [equivalent to $8.5 million] at a conference in Geneva in October for emergency humanitarian aid for the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

 

On February 5, he announced that this year Switzerland will provide an additional support of $12 million for the Rohingya refugees.

 

He said the agreement on repatriation between Bangladesh and Myanmar was a positive step towards a solution to the current crisis.

 

“It’ll be important that all returns are voluntary and safe, and carried out with dignity,” said the Swiss president.

 

Given the extent of humanitarian crisis (Rohingya), Switzerland earlier decided to increase its financial contribution to CHF 8 million.

 

Switzerland also called upon the government of Myanmar to fully respect its obligations under international law, particularly to prevent all the human rights violations and abuses, and ensure that the perpetrators of such violations are brought to justice, thus creating the conditions essential for the refugees’ return.

 

Swiss President Alain Berset said the situation of Rohingyas was of great concern to his country and laid emphasis on their safe and voluntary repatriation to Myanmar.

 

“Switzerland commends your government and the people of Bangladesh for the solidarity, assistance and protection offered to the Rohingyas,” Berset said in a statement after his official talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the latter’s office.

 

Stating that the root of Rohingya problem lies in Myanmar, Hasina urged the international community, including Switzerland, to mount pressure on Myanmar for an early peaceful solution to the crisis.

 

The Swiss president said Switzerland pledged eight million Swiss francs [equivalent to $8 million] at a conference in Geneva in October for emergency humanitarian aid for the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

 

“And I’m very pleased to announce today [yesterday] that this year Switzerland will provide an additional 12 million francs [equivalent to $12 million] for the Rohingya refugees.”

 

He said the agreement on repatriation between Bangladesh and Myanmar was a positive step towards a solution to the current crisis.

 

“It’ll be important that all returns are voluntary and safe, and carried out with dignity,” said the Swiss president.

 

In her statement, Hasina said, “We had a productive meeting today [yesterday]. We’ve discussed the Rohingya crisis during bilateral talks. I shared that as the root of the problem lies in Myanmar, the solution has to be found in Myanmar.”

 

“I put emphasis on full and immediate implementation of the recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission Report, as that will be critically important for the sustainable return of the Rohingya people, in safety and dignity, to their homes in Myanmar,” the PM said.

 

Prime Minister Hasina thanked Berset for making his historic first-ever official visit to Bangladesh and termed it a milestone in 45 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

 

Hasina recalled her visit to Switzerland in December 2000 at the invitation of the then president of the Swiss Confederation.

 

Switzerland was among the first few West European countries to recognise Bangladesh as an independent state on March 13, 1972. Since then, Switzerland became an important development partner and a time-tested friend, she said.

 

Hasina appreciated the role played by Switzerland regarding the Rohingya crisis at different United Nations forums and beyond.

 

She hoped that Swiss companies would explore business opportunities in Bangladesh, and invited them to participate in sectors like oil and gas exploration, power and energy, critical infrastructure development, ICT, banking and insurance, and pharmaceuticals.

 

Terming the relations between Switzerland and Bangladesh good, Swiss President Berset said Switzerland with this visit demonstrated its support and solidarity for Bangladesh during the Rohingya crisis.

 

“The bilateral relations between our countries are good. We’ve had the opportunity to exchange today [yesterday] on areas — trade, development cooperation, cultural exchanges and climate change — where both the countries see a strong potential for development of our relations,” he said in another statement.

 

He also greeted Bangladesh as it was heading towards emerging a middle-income nation. “We also welcome efforts in improving the business climate, legal security and the need for a sustainable business environment, including respect for human rights.”

 

Mentioning that the bilateral trade between the two countries has almost doubled over the past seven years, he said, “It’s my firm belief that the Swiss-Bangladeshi trade and investment will reach new heights in the future.”

 

Switzerland is very much interested in continuing this path with the government of Bangladesh, the private sector and civil society organisations, said Berset, adding that a particular focus on the next couple of years will be on social inclusion, economic development, governance and safe migration.

 

President of the Swiss Confederation Alain Berset visited Savar National Mausoleum and paid homage to Liberation War martyrs. He signed visitors’ book there after placing floral wreaths.

 

Later, the Swiss President visited Bangabandhu Museum at Dhanmondi and paid respect to Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

 

He placed wreaths on the portrait of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and visited various corners of the Museum.

 

Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor, State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam and Bangabandhu’s grandson and Sheikh Rehana’s son Rezwan Siddique Bobby accompanied him at the Museum.

 

Swiss Ambassador in Dhaka Rene Holenstein, among others, was present. Later, the Swiss President signed visitors’ book there.

 

President of the Swiss Confederation also attended a high level Bangladesh-Switzerland Business Forum, along with Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali and Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal.

 

During his stay in Bangladesh, Berset met civil society representatives, Swiss businesses active in Bangladesh, and visited the Dhaka Art Summit, of which the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia is a partner.

 

Switzerland and Bangladesh enjoy long-standing relations in the area of development cooperation. Bangladesh is a priority country in Swiss development cooperation.

The volume of trade between the two countries has more than doubled since 2010.

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