Foreign trade and development minister Sigrid Kaag will visit Bangladesh and Myanmar this week. She wishes to gain personal insight into the refugee crisis, the authorities’ response and the humanitarian aid being offered.
Since August 2017 hundreds of thousands of people have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh, following the violent unrest in Rakhine state. Most of them are Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Myanmar. The minister will speak with refugees and aid workers at a refugee camp in a region of Bangladesh where almost one million refugees are currently located. She will also visit a UN World Food Programme distribution point for refugees.
Ms Kaag will speak with government representatives in Bangladesh and Myanmar, including the head of Myanmar’s government, Aung San Suu Kyi. In order to get the clearest possible picture of the situation, she will also meet with political analysts, third country diplomats and representatives of civil society organisations.
Bangladesh and Myanmar have announced that they will soon start repatriating Rohingya refugees. However, the UN has noted that the conditions for a safe, voluntary and dignified return have not yet been satisfied. ‘The Netherlands continues to underline that return is only possible if it happens voluntarily and in a safe, dignified and sustainable manner,’ said Ms Kaag. ‘I will stress that in all my meetings this week.’
In Bangladesh the minister will also visit a textile factory and draw attention to the need to improve working conditions in the textile sector. Ms Kaag will call for continued support for the implementation of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, which provides, among other things, for international inspections.