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Cablegate: European Commission Concerned About Rohingya

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS BRUSSELS 004013

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL BG BM EUN USEU BRUSSELS
SUBJECT: EUROPEAN COMMISSION CONCERNED ABOUT ROHINGYA
REFUGEES

1. (SBU) Summary. The European Commission (EC) is concerned
about the plight of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh,
including the lack of adequate educational opportunities for
refugee children. Those living outside official refugee
camps without official status are at greater risk. The EC
would provide significant funding if the GoB agreed to allow
the local integratation of the Rohingyas. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On 9/10, PRM Assistant met with EC officers -- DG
RELEX Administrator for Southeast Asia and Uprooted Peoples
Thomas Gnocchi and DG RELEX Bangladesh desk officer Ana
Beatriz Martins -- to discuss the Rohingya refugees. Martins
spoke at length about the living conditions in both the
official camps and the "unofficial" Teknaf camp. According
to Martins, conditions in the official camps are relatively
good. However, he noted that the exceedingly low levels of
education in the camps have become a focus of concern.
Gnocchi said that the Bangladeshi government requires lessons
to be taught in Burmese so as to keep the ties alive and
encourage future return. Since there are few teachers who
speak the required language, many refugee children are not
receiving satisfactory schooling and their future is in
jeopardy.

3. (SBU) The "unofficial" camp in Teknaf, on the other hand,
is facing more immediate difficulties and hardships. "The
living conditions in Teknaf," stated Martins, "are abysmal."
Unfortunately, the peculiarities surrounding their situation
merely serve to complicate their eligibility for aid. Many
of its residents have unknowingly lost their status as
refugees, often as a result of failed attempts to repatriate
to Rakhine State. Martins added that as a result the
Bangladeshi government recognizes them not as refugees, or
even as former refugees, but as illegal immigrants.

4. (SBU) With the help of the UNHCR, the EC is pushing for
the implementation of a self-sufficiency program that aims to
increase accessibility to educational and vocational
training. Thus far, the Bangladeshi government has neither
endorsed nor denounced this program. This is significant
considering the continued hard-line approach by the
government to the plight of these refugees. Gnocchi noted
that the Rohingyas, numbering 19,500 persons, comprise a
small fraction of the overall migration problem. He added
that Bangladesh has the capacity to absorb this rather small
group, but refuses to for fear of igniting a mass movement of
refugees. Martins acknowledged the legitimacy of such fears,
but stated that they could be avoided if a low profile was
maintained. Gnocchi added that the EC is willing to offer
significant development projects in the region if local
integration were accepted as an option by Bangladesh.

5. (SBU) In response to the current stagnation surrounding
the plight of these refugees, the EC is in the process of
redefining its vision for Bangladesh, according to Martins.
They plan to pursue deeper discussion on the issue with
Member States under the Dutch Presidency. Martins added that
the current turmoil plaguing the region both heightens this
need and frustrates any possibility of resolving the issue.
Martins and Gnocchi inquired about future coordination with
the U.S. on this issue.

SCHNABEL

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