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Civic, development bodies protest WB’s loan offer for Rohingya refugees

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Speakers at a human chain, arranged by civic and development organisations, have protested the World Bank’s offer to provide loans to Bangladesh to meet the basic needs of around one million Rohingyas who fled their homeland Myanmar.

They said Bangladesh must not take loans as the country is not responsible for this crisis.

“If the World Bank wants to help Bangladesh over the crisis, it should provide funds for repatriation,” a speaker said at the human chain arranged by nine organisations at Jatiya Press Club in Dhaka on Saturday, according to a press release.

Led by the Equity and Justice Working Group (EquityBD), the rally was jointly organised by the Bangladesh Krishok Federation, Sundarban O Upakul Surokha Andolon, CSRL, NDF, FN Foundation, Trinamool Unnayan Sangstha, Water Keepers Bangladesh and Youth Net for Climate Justice. EquityBD Secretariat Coordinator Mustafa Kamal Akand moderated the short rally and EquityBD’s Chief Moderator Mr. Rezaul Karim Chowdhury presided over the meeting.

Zayed Iqbal Khan of Bangladesh Krishok Federation, Omour Farooq Bhuiya of BDCSO Process, Mamun Kabir of Water Keepers Bangladesh, Assistant Professor Mir Mohammad Ali of Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, Abdullah Al Hadi Munna of FN Foundation spoke in the meeting. Mr Abul Hossain, President of the Garment Workers Federation, and Lion Akbar Hossain, the brave freedom fighter, spoke in solidarity.

In his speech, Mustafa Kamal Akand said the per capita fund allocated for the Rohingya population has already dropped from $12 to $8.

“Every year the funding for them is gradually decreasing. However, the international organisations engaged in humanitarian programs are not reducing management costs accordingly. This management cost must be reduced immediately. Otherwise, this crisis will become extreme,” he said.

Freedom fighter Lion Akbar Hossain said, “A newly born child in Bangladesh is already in debt. So, we are against making Bangladesh a more debt-burdened country.”

Mir Mohammad Ali, assistant professor of Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, said, “World Bank loan will not help Bangladesh in any way. Rather, it will push the already debt-burdened country towards a worsened situation.”

Omour Farooq Bhuiya of BDCSO Process said, “Bangladesh is already burdened with debt, which must be paid by the common people of the next generation. Meanwhile, the per capita debt of the country is $580. Increasing this debt means putting the next generation in debt before they are born.”

Mamun Kabir of Water Keepers Bangladesh said, “We are not responsible for this crisis. So we will not take any loans to face this crisis. Whether it's for the Rohingya or the local communities affected by them, we have to be given donations, not a loan.”

EquityBD's Barkat Ullah Maruf said, “The refugee crisis around the world is growing but funding for emergency assistance is shrinking. This global funding shortfall against the appeal for emergency response in 2023 was $36 billion.”

“The appeal for the Rohingya Response was some $918 million. Only 25 per cent of the appealed funds was received so far for the Rohingya crisis last year. In such cases, repatriation is the only option. If the World Bank wants to help Bangladesh overcome the crisis, it should provide funds for repatriation.”

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, Chief Moderator of EquityBD, said that the Bangladesh government is spending $1.2 billion every year beyond the Rohingya relief programme.

“When the Bangladesh government asked for assistance in the development of local communities affected by the Rohingya crisis, the World Bank offered a loan for this. We are protesting this because, since Bangladesh is not responsible for this crisis, it must not take loans.”

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