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US announces programme to resettle Rohingya refugees

Sixty-two Rohingya have been approved to travel to the US so far, according to Bangladeshi news reports
Rohingya refugees walk back home after collecting relief material in Ukhia, Bangladesh on 6 October 2022.
Rohingya refugees walk back home after collecting relief material in Ukhia, Bangladesh, on 6 October 2022 (AFP)

The United States has announced a new programme to resettle "the most vulnerable Rohingya refugees", and the first group of these refugees has already started the journey to the US.

" The US government is very pleased to establish, in coordination with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other resettlement countries, a resettlement program for the most vulnerable Rohingya refugees," US Assistant Secretary of State Julieta Valls Noyes said on Thursday.

Noyes also touted US support for the Rohingya, saying that Washington has given more than $1.9bn to "affected populations in Burma, Bangladesh, and elsewhere in the region, for Rohingya and their host communities". 

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The announcement by the US would pave the way for further resettlement of members of the persecuted community to other countries.

Rohingya Muslims have been fleeing Myanmar en masse since 2017, at the start of the country's most recent army crackdown against the minority group.

In August 2017, Myanmar's military forced 700,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh, in a campaign the UN described as "genocidal".

The details of the resettlement programme, however, are unclear. Middle East Eye reached out to the State Department and the Office for Refugee Resettlement for further clarification, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Bangladeshi news reports state that 62 Rohingya have been approved to be resettled in the US so far, according to the country's foreign minister, AK Abdul Momen. Momen added that 62 was "a drop in the ocean" but that 300 to 800 Rohingya would be repatriated annually.

Momen said he requested that Washington resettle at least 100,000 Rohingya, according to the report.

The US announcement was welcomed by Refugees International, who said that "the significance of a door opening cannot be underestimated".

"The US announcement of a resettlement program for Rohingya from Bangladesh is a welcome and highly significant step toward addressing the Rohingya crisis," Daniel Sullivan, a director of Refugees International, said in a statement.

It is also unclear which other countries will work alongside the UN and the US to resettle the refugee population. Canada was the first country to begin resettling Rohingya from Bangladesh in 2007.

The Rohingya in Canada Centre, based in Kitchener, Ontario, has said that about 1,000 Rohingya have come to Canada since 2006.

Many Rohingya refugees also travelled to Saudi Arabia on passports obtained via fake documents from several South Asian countries - including Bangladesh; Bhutan; India; Nepal; and Pakistan - to flee persecution in Myanmar. Most entered Saudi Arabia on Umrah pilgrimage visas several years ago.

In 2018, Middle East Eye reported that hundreds of Rohingya men, women and children were being held indefinitely without charge inside a detention centre in Saudi Arabia.

In the months following this, Riyadh deported scores of Rohingya to Bangladesh where they became refugees.

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