Teknaf, Bangladesh: U.S. Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugee and Migration Affairs, Ellen R Sauerbrey along with other US officials visited Burmese refugee camps here over the last two days for a survey of the situation in the camps.  The US officials visiting the undocumented and documented refugee camps were on an information gathering tour. They met Medecins San Frontieres (MSF) representatives, dealing with refugees and local people in Teknaf, said Fiido Herincks, director MSF.  Ms Sauerbrey was accompanied by the US Ambassador to Bangladesh - Patricia A. Butenis, Officer Political affairs of the US Embassy in Dhaka, Director of the American Centre in Dhaka, members of the US Embassy in Bangkok, UNHCR and Bangladesh officials. On August 22, the US officials visited the makeshift camp and MSF’s clinic in Teknaf around 2:00 p.m. 

A side of undocumented Burmese Refugee Camp, Teknaf

 The officials discussed about the situation of refugees in the makeshift camp with MSF officials and also the services they render in the areas in Teknaf. They left the undocumented refugees camp at around 2:30 p.m.  US officials also met the officers of Refugee Relief and Repatriation Center (RRRC), WFP, UNHCR, MSF and NGOs and discussed about Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazaar on August 22 evening. On 23 August, the US officials met the Food and Disaster Management Minister of Bangladesh, Chowdhury Kamal Ibne Yusuf, at his office, after a visit to Teknaf in Cox’s Bazaar and discussed the Rohingya refugee issue in Bangladesh. Ms. Sauerbrey emphasized on improving the living conditions of Rohingyas in and outside the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar and providing them with skill-based education to prepare them for future repatriation. “They need skills and basic education. The refugees here have begotten a lot of children, who need to have vocational skills to have a better future,” Sauerbrey observed. She asked the government to allow international organizations and development agencies to runactivities aimed at improving the refugees’ living conditions. At this point, Kamal Ibne Yusuf said the government had no objection to allowing such activities, but the number of such organizations must be proportionate to the range of activities. “The area is close to the border and is sensitive. That is why we cannot allow unlimited activities by anyone,” he told a group of reporters while responding to the American request. The minister requested the US officials to arrange rehabilitation of the Rohingya refugees in a third country, if their long-pending repatriation to Burma is delayed further. The USA should exert pressure on the Burmese government to take back its citizens staying for years at a stretch in refugee camps in Bangladesh. The US assistant secretary, however, made no commitment to either arrange a third-countryrehabilitation of the Rohingyas or pressure Burma to take them back.  Ms. Sauerbrey also urged Dhaka to register some 6,000 fresh Rohingya refugees, a request that the minister turned down with regret. ‘We can’t welcome more refugees to Bangladesh.’ Officially, about 21,000 Rohingya refugees have been staying in a number of camps in Teknaf since 1991-92, but the number of unauthorized refugees scattered over Cox’s Bazaar and Bandarban districts is estimated at over 200,000.