Rohingya Refugees — in quest of immediate repatriation

Mohammad Tarikul Islam | Published: November 24, 2018 21:24:26 | Updated: November 27, 2018 21:26:17

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According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR), the Rohingya issue is a textbook example of ethnic cleansing orchestrated by the civil-military administration of Myanmar. Influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh has been non since the 1970s and their number has surpassed 500,000. Strangely, Bangladesh is now hosting about a million Rohingya refugees. Experience suggests that the Myanmar government is reluctant to take back their nationals, despite robust diplomatic endeavours of Bangladesh government across all level. It gives the impression that the repatriation of the Rohingyas to their homeland will be uncertain in the coming days and at the same time, their stay in Bangladesh might be continuing for a longer period of time. What we can perceive is that providing basic provisions of their life like food, shelter, and healthcare have been the utmost priorities at the moment and also for the rest of the period until their return to Myanmar.

Prolonged stay will ultimately bring about pitiable condition for the Rohingya community. The Rohingya refugees who are downright marginalised are seriously at the risk of human trafficking. It is evident that international human trafficking gangs are actively looking at this situation to mishandle the vulnerability of the Rohingyas. Mentioning the Rohingya crisis as a potential threat to human security, UN agencies working in Bangladesh have been urging the international community for adequate fund to provide them basic supplies for survival. It is the experience of various countries which hosted refugees during many humanitarian crises that international support lessens over time if crises keep lingering on for long. In this kind of situation, the economic burden of providing humanitarian support to the refugees falls squarely on the host country.

Bangladesh government has been praised for providing them with various facilities, including shelter, food and medicare despite many limitations. Health security and food security are the challenges in the makeshift shelters where the refugees are living. This has resulted in malnutrition, and if the food situation does not improve quickly, there is likelihood that the Rohingya children could even meet life-threatening events. We should keep it in mind that the country has to rely on the food grains produced within the country for its own domestic consumption.

Meanwhile, the government of Bangladesh took many steps for resolving the Rohingya crisis while various agencies including the armed forces, police, Border Guard of Bangladesh and Rapid Action Battalion along with the civil administration, public representatives and the common people are providing necessary services to the Rohingyas.

Given their living space mostly located in Teknaf-Cox's Bazar areas, the refugee-earmarked areas are adjacent to the settlements of the local citizens. It is not unlikely that undesirable incidences may erupt between them causing law and order situations. With the refugees sheltered close to local people's settlements, the social and cultural harmony among the local citizens and the Rohingya refugees might get jeopardised.  Bangladesh is making every effort to harness regional and global powers to end the crisis through an amicable solution, despite the position of China and India on the side of Myanmar on the Rohingya issue. We know both countries have huge strategic and economic interest in Myanmar.

Considering the suffering of the Rohingya refugees, it is felt that the humanitarian, political, law and order, security, and environmental concerns must be prioritised. The United Nations, which seems to be very eager for meaningful repatriation, should coordinate and communicate with global powers and other relevant stakeholders to come forward to solve the problems being faced by the Rohingya permanently by putting pressure on Myanmar by creating a safe and secure environment. The UN at the same time must enforce the recommendations of Annan Commission. 

Mohammad Tarikul Islam is an Assistant Professor, Department of Government and Politics, Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh and Visiting Research Fellow, University of Oxford.

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