DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Switzerland’s President Alain Berset said Tuesday his country supports the full implementation of the recommendations made by an advisory commission headed by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on resolving the Rohingya crisis.
He made the comment while visiting refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district to talk to Rohingya refugees who have fled to the country to escape violence in Myanmar.
The Annan-led commission submitted a report to Myanmar authorities in August, urging action to prevent violence, maintain peace and foster reconciliation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where the Rohingya have fled from.
More than 680,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh to escape a crackdown by Myanmar’s military that began following attacks by a Rohingya militant group on Aug. 25.
Berset, who is on a four-day official visit to Bangladesh, said he wanted safe return of the Rohingya to Myanmar as agreed in November by both countries.
The surge in the number of Rohingya Muslims fleeing from Buddhist-majority Myanmar followed a crackdown launched by the Myanmar military in August. In November, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to gradually repatriate the refugees. The returns were scheduled to begin in January, but were delayed by incomplete preparations and concerns that the Rohingya were being forced back.
Human rights groups have expressed concern about the safety and security of the refugees if they are sent back.
Berset also visited a government-run hospital in Cox’s Bazar town that received Swiss contributions.
He said the massive refugee crisis had put Bangladesh and the international community under enormous pressure to provide shelter and the most urgent services.
“Switzerland is working closely with Bangladesh, U.N. agencies and other development partners in order to respond to this crisis,” he said.
Up to 500,000 Rohingya have been living for decades in Bangladesh, and the new influx has put extreme pressure on the country’s resources. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh would do its best, but Myanmar must accept them all back.
Berset’s visit is the first by a Swiss president to Bangladesh since it gained independence from Pakistan in 1971.