Rohingya repatriation

Dhaka,  Thu,  24 August 2017
Published : 11 Jul 2017, 20:24:25

Rohingya repatriation

The failure to reach a decision on resolving the Rohingya refugee crisis is quite unsettling on many counts. Beside affecting bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Myanmar, it poses the worst kind of uncertainty for the nearly quarter of a million people living in miserable conditions in makeshift refugee camps in Cox's Bazar. Ever since the influx of refugees began from across the bordering Rakhain state of Myanmar inhabited mostly the Rohingya Muslims --an ill-fated people ostracised by the very state power of their country, the prospect of an early solution to the problem was never visible on the horizon. The refugee crisis dates back more than a decade with hordes of people fleeing ethnic violence, and their number swelling all the time. There were several attempts to reach an understanding with Myanmar on the issue but those did not prove effective enough to bring any positive outcome.

According to an UNHCR estimate, since October 2016 alone, 74,000 minority Muslims who fled killings, rape, arson and violence in the Rakhine state entered Bangladesh. Clear enough, the influx of the refugees, besides being a burden on the country's economy and its scarce lands to accommodate such huge numbers, has been posing threats to law and order, environment and public health. Reckless destruction of forest resources in the adjoining areas has been reported time and again as a potential disaster to environment. Today intermingling of the Rohingyas with the locals is causing a serious problem for the authorities to place them apart because of their similarity with the local people in physical appearance and dialect. There were worrying reports in the media that a section of the Rohingyas were obtaining Bangladesh passports and travelling overseas for employment as the country's nationals. 

The problem is multi-dimensional. Official level talks held between the two governments failed to reach a roadmap on how to resolve the problem in phases. In May this year, Bangladesh proposed a plan to Myanmar for repatriating the Myanmar nationals living in Bangladesh as well as improving bilateral relations. Response from Myanmar is reportedly awaited. Last week, a senior advisor of the Myanmar government had had talks with the Bangladesh authorities. However, it is yet to be made public whether both sides could work out a viable mechanism for repatriation of the refugees.

The Rohingya issue is lingering much too long, and for Bangladesh bearing the brunt of the ethnic violence in Myanmar makes no point. The international bodies including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are far from making any headway in restoring things according to international law. It is no doubt a supreme humanitarian task to spare the refugees the terrible living conditions in the makeshift camps and help return to their ancestral homes. Given the magnitude of the crisis, it is now critically important for both countries to engage themselves, preferably at the highest level, so that it gets due priority.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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