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Rohingya repatriation unlikely to begin soon

Rohingyas, fleeing persecution in Rakhine State of Myanmar, queue up to get biometrically registered at Kutupalang Refugee Camp at Ukhia in Cox's Bazar. -- New Age file photo

By Shahidul Islam Chowdhury | Published by New Age Bangladesh on June 20, 2018

Protracted Rohingya crisis is unlikely to end soon as beginning their repatriation from Bangladesh is still a faraway thing because of Myanmar’s reluctance to create conditions conducive for their sustainable return when World Refugee Day is going to be observed today.

The civil and military authorities in Myanmar are buying time on different pleas with the Bangladesh government and international organisations putting emphasis on creating conditions in Rakhine State with rebuilding villages, ensuring citizenship of the Rohingyas and granting them rights to free movement, local and foreign diplomats have told New Age. 

There ‘is no development’ in starting return of the Rohingyas as ‘currently conditions in Myanmar are not conducive for returns,’ UNHCR spokesperson in Cox’s Bazar Caroline Gluck told New Age on Tuesday. 

The UN teams require assessing need for creating conducive conditions and starting preparations for receiving Rohingya people in Rakhine State with visiting villages where security forces and their cronies ran massacre on and after August 25 last year, a senior UN official said.

But the Myanmar government slowed down the process of granting the UN teams permission for accessing the areas let alone starting reconstruction of villages for returnees he regretted.

A senior Bangladesh diplomat said there was no possibility of starting repatriation of the Rohingyas in the next few months as none of the Bangladesh and Myanmar sides were ready to start the process. 
Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam, however, on Tuesday claimed that they were ‘in the process of preparations for repatriation’ of the Rohingyas.

When asked whether they started the process of verifying voluntariness of return with the help of the UNHCR, he said voluntariness would be checked once the UN authorities ‘gives signal that they are ready to receive the returnees’ in Myanmar. 

About 7,00,000 Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, entered Bangladesh fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by Myanmar military in Rakhine, what the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing and genocide, beginning from August 25, 2017.

Bangladesh Enterprise Institute vice-president M Humayun Kabir stressed the need for comprehensive measures from the international communities for sustainable return of the Rohingya people.

‘A new political debate is brewing in some countries including the US, Germany and Italy over the forcibly displaced people,’ Kabir, also a former ambassador, observed, adding that there ‘is hue and cry about the consequences of migration instead of addressing the root causes that forced people to leave their country.’

The UNHCR said in a report released on Tuesday that a record 68.5 million people were forced to flee their homes due to war, violence and persecution, notably in places like Myanmar and Syria. 

By the end of 2017, the number was nearly three million higher than the previous year and showed a 50-per cent increase from the 42.7 million uprooted from their homes a decade ago, said the report released on the eve of World Refugee Day of the UN set to be observed today. 

The current figure is equivalent to the entire population of Thailand, and the number of people forcibly displaced equates to one in every 110 persons worldwide, it says.

‘We are at a watershed, where success in managing forced displacement globally requires a new and far more comprehensive approach so that countries and communities aren’t left dealing with this alone,’ said UN high commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

But around 70 per cent of these people were from just 10 countries, he told reporters in Geneva ahead of the report’s launch.

International Criminal Court is scheduled to hold a closed-door hearing today on its jurisdiction as well as granting a prosecutor permission to launch a preliminary examination into the forced deportation of Rohingya people from Myanmar.

UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Monday that there ‘are clear indications of well-organised, widespread and systematic attacks continuing to target the Rohingyas in Rakhine State as an ethnic group, amounting possibly to acts of genocide if so established by a court of law.’

The ongoing Rohingya influx took the number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered refugees in a small areas in Cox’s Bazar to about 11,16,000, which is much higher than the population of Bhutan, experts said. Bhutan’s population was about 8,00,000 in 2016. 

Bangladesh and Myanmar governments signed three instruments since November 23, 2017, for return of forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals sheltered in Bangladesh after October 2016, as the Rohingya exodus from Rakhine State continued.

The Bangladesh and Myanmar governments signed two memorandums of understanding with the UN agencies to ensure voluntariness of the returnees and facilitate safe and dignified return to Rakhine State.

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