Empathy: A skill we must learn

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12:00 AM, September 07, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:38 AM, September 07, 2019

Empathy: A skill we must learn

Why we should adopt a kinder approach to dealing with Rohingyas  

Rohingya refugees gather to mark the second anniversary of their exodus to Bangladesh at the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, on August 25, 2019. Photo: COLLECTED

Nafiz Ahmed

I still remember the day when the picture of three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi lying dead on the beach surfaced on the Internet. Aylan and his family were refugees trying to reach Europe. The news was followed by a massive public outcry. I recall that many people including the young in Bangladesh were also vocal about it. Many of my friends on social media made the image their profile picture, with impassioned captions decrying the state of immigration and refugee crisis and how the world had failed an innocent boy. Most people that I know seemed to be very troubled by the Syrian humanitarian crisis which cost many lives and millions of homes. We criticised the lack of an intervention from the international community as the war brought that country to its knees.

But that compassion and fellow-feeling seemed to be lost on many of us when the ball was in our own court. The Bangladesh government showed great courage by sheltering the Rohingya refugees who were victims of one of the worst genocides in history. Applauded at first, this decision by the government has been lately losing its popularity among the citizens. I believe this is one of those few actions taken by our government that should be commended without any hesitation. But my social media homepage was recently flooded with unfortunate criticism and doubts about the means through which the government is dealing with the Rohingya crisis. Hostile comments are being made regarding the Rohingyas and their prolonged stay in the country.

The tension has been further stoked by offensive, discriminatory, humiliating and generalising journalism by some of our online newspapers. What purpose do headlines like “Bangladeshi man murdered by Rohingyas” serve other than enticing hatred among the people? There are about a million Rohingya refugees now living in Bangladesh and it is quite unreasonable to expect all of them to be saints. Another news report that recently caused tension among many is that of the Rohingya assembly held on August 25, 2019, which marked their two years of being stranded in Bangladesh. Those who have the habit of just reading headlines without going to the details caused quite an uproar on social media, questioning the objective of the gathering. Anyone who bothered to follow the whole news would know that no statements were made in that rally that remotely suggest a threat to Bangladesh’s national security. There was nothing about it that could be construed as dangerous. But absorbing such news through a nationalist filter, however, is problematic. In this case, nationalism should not be the driving factor for our emotions; it should be humanity. I urge those driven by hatred and nationalist sentiments to find their humanity in these trying times and not make the situation any more difficult for an already persecuted community. It should not be that hard as it is our innate characteristic.

On a different note, criticising US President Trump is one of those “cool” things that we young people do a lot these days. I have often seen that two people who have never agreed on anything in their life before are agreeing about the discriminatory and demeaning nature of the comments made by Donald Trump. Statements such as “they bring crimes and drugs to our country” have become too familiar by now to those who keep track of American politics. Unfortunately, these dangerous words and phrases are now being used by many of us also.

I remember an interview in which an Australian man asked British journalist Mehdi Hasan whether he thinks Muslims in Australia are conceiving more frequently so that they can outnumber the Caucasians. Just like the audience present at the hall, I was shocked by hearing such an ignorant and racist question. It hurts even more now when I hear Bangladeshis making similar remarks about Rohingyas.

There is no “Bangladeshi dream” to be achieved here. I would ask anyone who thinks that the Rohingyas are living a better life on this side of the border than they did back at home, please go and visit the camps in Ukhiya. They did not cross the border in pursuit of happiness or a better life. They crossed it to stay alive. Thinking that people would sacrifice all that they once held dear to their hearts to have the things you have is not only arrogant but also bigoted. At tea stalls on the roadside, I sometimes hear people say that the Rohingyas “like it here” and they will never leave our country. To them, I ask, “If not forced, would you want to leave the comfort of your home to live in a refugee camp?”

Have we forgotten about how ten million of our people fled the persecution in 1971 by taking refuge in India? Of all people, Bangladeshis should know better the horror of having to flee from your homes and country amidst a genocidal campaign. We should know how it feels like to walk in the shoes of Rohingyas. We should learn empathy.

Nafiz Ahmed is a law graduate from North South University and currently an apprentice lawyer.

Source: https://www.thedailystar.net/opinion/news/empathy-skill-we-must-learn-1796560

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Telling off the UN

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12:00 AM, September 08, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 08, 2019

EDITORIAL

Telling off the UN

How does it serve our interest?

The nature of the foreign minister’s outburst against the UN, both abrasive and devoid of diplomatic suaveness, has shocked and surprised us. What has happened for the UN to deserve literally being shown the door, if the world body did not accede to the Bangladesh government’s plan to relocate a segment of the refugees to Bhashan Char, is unknown to us.

We wonder what motivated such an abrasive comment that sounded very much like an ultimatum. Given the tone and tenor of the comment, by way of response to a question from Deutsche Welle, one cannot help but get the impression that our current relationship with the UN is indeed in a very bad shape.

 There is no doubt that the UN has not quite lived up to our expectations. All of the efforts, through the UN Security Council, to address the matter was effectively blocked by China. And the other important Myanmar neigbour, India, though has been forthcoming with humanitarian aid, has done very little of substance in terms of bringing pressure on Naypyidaw. 

 As for the resettlement plan, we understand that the Bhashan Char project was drawn up independently without prior consultations with our development partners or the UN. But be that as it may, why does the government need a thumbs-up from the UN to go ahead with the plan if it feels that is in the best interest of the country? But we fail to understand to what extent the current situation will be ameliorated by relocating only less than ten percent of the refugees. How will we solve the problem involving the remaining 90 percent? And with whose help? 

 It will be well to remember that a diplomat thinks twice before saying nothing and judges all its implications before saying anything. We would like to think that our foreign minister really did not mean what he said and also remind him that in the absence of support from China, Russia and India, the UN remains our best hope to move ahead, howsoever slowly, with resolving the Rohingya problem. Let us not forget that the UN may not be the most effective world body, but it is the only one we have.

 Source: https://www.thedailystar.net/editorial/news/telling-the-un-1796893 

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More global focus needed on Rohingya repatriation: Japanese expert

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More global focus needed on Rohingya repatriation: Japanese expert

Providing food, shelter, and healthcare shouldn’t be the only approach, he says
 UNB NEWS > PUBLISH DATE – SEPTEMBER 07, 2019, 08:37 AM

Bangladesh is currently hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingyas. File photo/AP

 Tokyo (Japan), Sept 7 (UNB) – The international community needs to focus more on repatriation of Rohingyas to their place of origin in Rakhine State instead of focusing only on their food, shelter and healthcare issues, says a Japanese South Asian affairs expert.

“We’ve to work on how to bring them (Rohingyas) back to their original country (Myanmar),” Ryohei Kasai, visiting researcher at Center for South Asian Studies, Gifu Women’s University, told UNB.

The diplomat-turned-researcher said any refugee crisis has many dimensions but distributing food, providing shelter and healthcare services is one of the approaches to deal with the refugee issue. “[But] that shouldn’t be only approach,” he said.

Kasai said they know the Japanese government has spoken to Myanmar government, including Aung San Suu Kyi and military officials, to resolve the matter. Japanese Foreign Minister Tara Kono also spoke to his Myanmar counterpart to convince Naypyidaw so that they take back the Rohingyas, he said.

Attempts to send back the Rohingyas were halted twice. File photo/AP

“We’ve been asking [Myanmar] to do that. Of course, more should be done,” Kasai said, adding that the international community should help Bangladesh to ease the burden on it due to the Rohingya crisis.

Japan has already shared some “preliminary ideas” with Bangladesh that can help expedite the Rohingya repatriation process as the country, being a common friend of Bangladesh and Myanmar, does not want to see “prolongation” of the Rohingya situation.

Japanese Foreign Minister Kono floated the ideas during a bilateral meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart AK Abdul Momen held in Dhaka recently.

Kono clearly mentioned that they do not want prolongation of this situation but hoped that the repatriation process will be expedited. The Japanese minister, who visited Bangladesh thrice and Rohingya camps twice, also visited Myanmar to discuss the issue with its leadership.

Japan has already shared some “preliminary ideas” with Bangladesh that can help expedite the Rohingya repatriation process. File photo/AP

Asked about any tripartite meeting among Bangladesh, Japan and Myanmar to find a solution, a diplomat here told UNB that there is no concrete plan and no particular date is fixed to have such a meeting.

A Japanese government source said they are with Bangladesh to assist and realise repatriation of the forcibly displaced people as early as possible. “We’ll continue to support Bangladesh to realise early repatriation of Rohingyas,” the source said.

Japanese expert Kasai praised Bangladesh for hosting such a big number of people from Myanmar which is a big burden for Bangladesh. “I’m very concerned about the refugee issue,” he said. Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas. More than 730,000 of them fled to Bangladesh to escape a vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing since August 25, 2017.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe showed his deep respect for the government of Bangladesh for generously accepting and protecting the Rohingyas on humanitarian ground. The two countries share the importance of stability in Cox’s Bazar from the perspective of enhancing connectivity and securing regional stability.

On May 29, Prime Minister Abe held a 50-minute meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina in Japan, and discussed ways to find a “durable and early solution” to the Rohingya crisis.,But attempts to send back the Rohingyas failed twice.

Despite all preparations, no Rohingya turned up on August 22 to accept the “voluntary” repatriation offer, prompting authorities to suspend the process for the day. The first batch of Rohingyas was scheduled to return on November 15 last year but it was also halted amid the unwillingness of Rohingyas to go back for the lack of a congenial atmosphere in the Rakhine State. The two countries signed a repatriation deal on November 23, 2017, but there has been little progress.

The Rohingya crisis has put a tremendous pressure on Bangladesh. File photo/AP

On July 29, Bangladesh handed a fresh list of 25,000 Rohingyas from around 6,000 families to Myanmar for verification before their repatriation.

With the latest list, Bangladesh has so far handed the names of around 55,000 Rohingyas to the Myanmar and around 8,000 of them have been verified. Myanmar only cleared 3,450 Rohingyas for beginning the repatriation.

On January 16 last year, Bangladesh and Myanmar inked a document on “Physical Arrangement”, which was supposed to facilitate the repatriation. It stipulates that the repatriation will be completed preferably within two years from the start.

Tags: International Community, Japanese Expert, Global Focus, Rohingya Repatriation, Rakhine State

Sources: http://www.unb.com.bd/category/Special/more-global-focus-needed-on-rohingya-repatriation-japanese-expert/27695

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Rohingya crisis: Govt to take over all administrative duties in camps

HomeBangladesh > Rohingya Crisis

 Rohingya crisis: Govt to take over all administrative duties in camps

 Kamrul Hasan > Published at 01:07 am September 6th, 2019

Officially, over 1.1 million Rohingyas currently live in various camps in Cox’s Bazar Syed Zakir Hossain /Dhaka Tribune

 UNHCR along with IOM is helping RRRC to ensure humanitarian assistance to the Rohingyas in 34 camps

The government has started the process to take over all administrative responsibilities in the Rohingya camps, two years since the latest influx of Rohingyas that began on August 25, 2017, due to an unprecedented brutal military crackdown by Myanmar.

Confirming the matter to Dhaka Tribune, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC) official, and Camp-in-Charge (CIC) Zahid Akhter said: “The government, around two months ago, had sent some officials for administrative duties here (at the Rohingya camps), and currently they are getting necessary training.”

“Establishing a definite service system (in the Rohingya camps) was not that easy. Registered camps have one CIC, and during the initial influx, the in-charges did not have any extra hands for assistance in their work. Later, upon expansion, each camp had one CIC. The concerned CICs got two volunteers to assist them.

“But controlling this large number of displaced people, along with the huge number of NGOs, was not that easy. Thus, during the early stages of the influx, the government outsourced recruitment and site management responsibilities through United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization of Migration (IOM) as it did not have adequate time to respond to the crisis,” he added.

“The principal responsibilities of a site management team is to help manage the site while ensuring a service map for the sites, and assist in administrative duties. The best thing about outsourcing site management responsibilities was ensuring a very good service-map (who, where will provide what types of services). But there were also some negatives of this decision.

“These aid workers working at the camps, only think about providing assistance to the Rohingyas but have failed to understand what the government is thinking regarding the proceedings, and how they (government) want to provide services to the Rohingyas. The NGOs working at the camps (for site management) are deployed through UNHCR or IOM, and their loyalty seemed to be tilted towards these bodies,” the RRRC official said.

“A good number of humanitarian activities are taking place inside the Rohingya camps, and in order to achieve the desired objectives, the government will recruit 40 to 50 individuals. “But only seven to nine of us are carrying out this huge task,” he added.

Addressing the proceedings, RRRC Additional Commissioner Mohammad Mizanur Rahman said, as funding to look after the persecuted people sheltered in Cox’s Bazar is in the decline, UNHCR has asked Bangladesh government to take over all administrative duties in the Rohingya camps.

“As a part of the initiative to bring all administrative duties under the government’s umbrella, seven to nine officials were deployed in the Rohingya camps as apprentice officers, and they are expected to start managing these sites (administrative duties) in full swing, hopefully by the end of 2019.

“It is a long process, and would take more time to take over all other activities related with the Rohingya crisis.”  he added.  Led by a commissioner, RRRC is a unit of the Bangladesh government responsible for the administrative duties inside the Rohingya camps.

The monumental task of helping Rohingyas 

Anybody, who has not been in the camps recently, will be surprised to see the level of development achieved in the last two years.  UNHCR along with IOM is helping RRRC to ensure humanitarian assistance to the Rohingyas in the 34 camps. In every camp, either IOM or UNHCR leads the humanitarian operations, while a Camp-in-Charge from RRRC performs the administrative duties.

According to ISCG, the coordinator of the whole operation, the camps are divided into 16 different sectors where Rohingyas get access to 11 types of services. (Bangladesh: Cox’s Bazar refugee response (4W) – as of 05 August 2019, published by ISCG)

The agencies which are responsible for site management, are providing referral services (granting special permissions regarding movement of Rohingyas, and providing services if not received) and this is playing a key role in abolishing the gaps between the service maps.

The major services that these bodies are providing include: Site management; site development, education; food security; health; child protection; protection from gender based violence (GBV); water, sanitation, hygiene (WASH); and shelter/NFI, and communication with community (CwC).

In the camps, all services for Rohingyas are provided by a mix of NGOs (local, national and international) along with the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA), and Department of Social Services under the Ministry of Social Welfare, while district units of every other concerned ministry are also involved in the procedure.

Tags:  Rohingya crisis, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC)

 Source: http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/rohingya-crisis/2019/09/06/rohingya-crisis-govt-to-take-over-all-administrative-duties-in-camps 

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The Rohingya crisis continues

OPINION                                                                                                               

6 September, 2019 11:16:16 AM

The Rohingya crisis continues

With both the repatriation efforts ending in fiasco it has to be accepted that the Rohingyas are not going away anytime soon

Syed Mehdi Momin

Rohingya Muslim refugees wait in line for their registration in the Ukhia, Bangladesh. (AFP)

The Rohingya Genocide Remembrance Day was observed on 25th of August. The day should be remembered as one when the much of the civilized world failed the Rohingya, by failing to stop the Rohingya genocide. Apparently, it became only Bangladesh’s worry.

Two efforts were made for the repatriation of the Rohingyas. Both ended in fiascos. On both these occasions not a single Rohingya showed up.  The Rohingyas just refused to go. Actually ever since the Arakan Muslims started coming to Bangladesh fleeing the atrocities perpetrated by xenophobic Rakhine in cahoots with Myanmar authorities, many here predicted that it would be extremely difficult to send back those who took refuge in this country. And many people are putting the blame on the Rohingyas. However, in the opinion of this writer it would unwise to put the blame on the unfortunate refugees.

How can these people be expected to take a plunge into uncertainty? The Myanmar authorities, at intervals send out statements about how the country is keen to take back the refugees. There is little reason for the Rohingyas to believe those statements. The brutality they faced is still quite fresh in their collective psyche.

In Bangladesh, especially in the recent days, there is an apparently well-thought-out plan to demonise the Rohingya people. What is ironic is the fact the quarters lambasting the Rohingya are using the same argument used by their persecutors in Myanmar–Myanmar military, Buddhist bhikshus, extremist elements, politicians.  In the thinly veiled racist campaign Rohingyas are being branded as criminals, extremists, smugglers, polygamous and what not. This culture of hate is assuming sickening proportions. Much hullabaloo has been raised about the cell phones used by the Rohingya.

In the opinion of this writer in this day and age receiving information from cell phones is a right. All of us change the SIM card of our phone set after reaching a foreign country. Many Bangladeshis, staying abroad illegally are using cell phones. Even people in jails have access to cell phones. So those who are indulging in diatribes against the Rohingya for using mobile sets would sing a different tune if their relatives abroad are not allowed access to cell phones.

Myanmar is yet to allow anyone in their Rakhine state for closer inspection. The world must be reassured that enough changes have taken place and if the Rohingyas return they can live with dignity. There is no question that a genocide forced these people to flee. It is the military that rules the roost in the erstwhile Burma. The civilian authorities in dealing with the issue have opted for obscurity. Myanmar is yet to admit to their crimes in any meaningful manner. With the Myanmar authorities not admitting their atrocities it would be too much to expect the Rohingyas to believe them. Bangladesh has time and again raised the issue in various platforms yet from Myanmar’s side there has only been deafening silence. The onus can’t be on the Rohingyas alone. To be frank Myanmar has not been sincere in their approach. They are not allowing any neutral body to carry out surveys in the Rakhine state.

Even more unfortunately there has not been any change in the antagonistic attitude of the Buddhist leaders of Rakhine. There has been no attempt to tone down their militant rhetoric. Derek Mitchell, who served as U.S. ambassador to Burma from 2012 to 2016, said. “We in the international community see the Rohingya as innocent people who just want to call themselves a name and who are uniquely abused for it. And, of course, it’s true they are largely innocent and uniquely abused. But to people in Myanmar, the name suggests something much more.”

For Yangon the very term Rohingya is particularly fraught. This is because if the government acknowledges Rakhine’s Muslims as members of the Rohingya ethnic group, then under the 1982 citizenship law—ironically, the same measure that stripped the Rohingya of their citizenship—the Muslims would be allowed an autonomous area within the country. And therein lies the crux of the problem: The government there fear a Rohingya autonomous area along the border with Bangladesh would come at the expense of Rakhine territory.

The authorities in Myanmar are yet to come out with a programme of social reconciliation among all people of Arakan. They could have invited Bangladeshi officials and representatives of the Rohingyas to go to Rakhine to get an idea of the ground realities. The Rohingyas, according to all evidence are right to think that if they go back will face the similar abuses that force them to leave Rakhine in the first place. While the scale and speed of this population movement were unprecedented, this was not the first time the Rohingya had been driven out of Myanmar. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has provided medical aid to the Rohingya in Myanmar and Bangladesh for decades. Their struggles over successive cycles of violence and persecution have long been an underreported crisis.

It has been two years since Rohingyas are out of their country. And the law in Myanmar stipulates that if someone leaves their homestead for over two years they are no longer the owner of that land. So the Rohingya may not have any home to go back to.

For instance, in the Operation Dragon King carried out in the late 1970s included mass arrests, persecution, and horrific violence, driving some 200,000 Rohingyas across the border to Bangladesh. The neighbouring country opens refugee camps, where MSF provides medical aid. But by 1979, most of the Rohingya were repatriated to Burma. Of those remaining in Bangladesh, as many as 10,000 people died– the majority children.

On a related note the attitudes on show from the two Asian giants have not been to Bangladesh’s advantage regarding the Rohingya imbroglio.  The India Bangladesh relations are believed to be at an all time high at present. Yet the much-touted ‘entente cordiale’ has not been endorsed by solid actions regarding this crisis. In the Indian media too the Rohingya issue is basically sidelined. It should be admitted though that India has given refuge to a several thousand Rohingyas, which apart from Bangladesh no other state has.

China has been on record desiring to play a role. However, any visible pressure has not been exerted on Myanmar.
Last month Chinese embassy officials were at the repatriation points. They saw first-hand that Rohingyas’ insecurities about going back and therefore, the next step for China should be to organise a face to face discussion between Bangladesh and Myanmar, where the different facets of the problem need to be resolved with China working as the rapporteur. With both the reparation effort not yielding anything it has to be accepted that the Rohingyas are not going away anytime soon. China has the influence and wherewithal to put pressure on Myanmar.  That may be the lone chance for a resolution to this serious crisis.

The writer is Senior Assistant Editor of The Independent

 Source: http://www.theindependentbd.com/post/214353 

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The Rohingya problem: Two years on

OPINION

The Rohingya problem: Two years on

Rohingyas rally in their thousands at a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar on 25 August 2019 to mark the second anniversary of the Myanmar military crackdown against them. Photo : bdnews 24.com

I write these few lines soon after the 2nd anniversary of the beginning of the arrival of hundreds of Rohingya refugees from Rakhine State of Myanmar. Having been responsible, in 1971, for the humanitarian needs of about 600,000 Bangladeshi refugees, in over 50 Oxfam-supported refugee camps in all the States bordering India and Bangladesh and having visited the Rohingya Refugee Camps in Cox’s Bazar District in late 2017, I am often asked about my extensive feelings, what I think should be done and how I see the future for these people from the Rakhine State.

In 1971 we knew that all the refugees from Bangladesh wished to return to their homes in Bangladesh after the fighting ceased. They wanted to return home. In actual fact they returned home much quicker than we expected and all the refugees had returned to Bangladesh by the end of February 1972. The Rohingyas do not feel the same way at all. They have been systematically attacked, tortured and suffered humiliating discrimination on a regular basis since the independence from the British in 1948. There is a record of 21 such armed ‘Clearance Operations’ since that year. Why would they want to return ‘home’ to the Rakhine State without a lot of assurances?

It is most unfortunate that, in recent days, some ministers and other senior government officials have voiced a belief that NGOs are influencing the Rohingya not to return to the Rakhine. The Rohingya do not need and influence such as this. They know the situation and they will not consider going back until they have cast iron commitments and internationally guaranteed assurances.

I was very angry that when people (especially foreigners) started writing about the crisis two years ago, most of them did not do any proper historical research, even recent history. In early 1992, I attended a UNHCR meeting in Dhaka about a Rohingya influx at that time. 20 years ago, while working with the Red Cross, I had oversight of the Red Cross/Red Crescent work among about 30,000 refugees in Kutapalong and Nayapara camps. However, to understand things much more, one needs to go back many centuries at which time eastern Bengal had become a cauldron in which a mixture of different races had bubbled, boiled over, and occasionally quietly simmered.

Although Islam had touched the coastal areas of Bengal between the 8th and 12th centuries, it was in the 13th century when Muhammad Bakhtiyar established a Muslim ruled state, the first of many dominated by non-Bengalis, including Turks, North Indians, Afghans, Arakanese and Ethiopians.

In the 16th century Portuguese freebooters from Goa secured a foothold but, failing to found an empire, either entered service of the rajahs of Arakan as mercenaries or turned pirate. The struggle for supremacy between the Muslims and Buddhists came to a head in 1661 when the rajah of Arakan put to death the Mogul viceroy of Bengal who had sought refuge with him, leading to a punitive expedition which resulted in the whole Arakan district becoming a province of the Mogul empire. Chittagong for some time was known as Islamabad. And for a while the cauldron simmered, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Catholic living an uneasy peace with one another.

The Burmese conquered Arakan in the 1780s which led to the arrival of refugees including many militants who then used the British territory as a base from which to launch counter-attacks against the Burmese occupying Arakan. When some sort of peace treaty had been agreed, Captain Cox had the task of looking after thirty to forty thousand refugees.

British policy encouraged Bengali inhabitants from adjacent regions to migrate into the then lightly populated and fertile valleys of Arakan as farm labourers. The East India Company extended the Bengal Presidency to Arakan. There was no international boundary between Bengal and Arakan and no restrictions on migration between the regions. In the early 19th century, thousands of Bengalis from the Chittagong region settled in Arakan seeking work. It is difficult to know whether these new Bengal migrants were the same population that was deported by force to Bengal’s Chittagong during the Burmese conquest in the 18th century and later returned to Arakan as a result of British policy or they were a new migrant population with no ancestral roots to Arakan.

A great uncle of mine who lived and worked in Rangoon in the 1930s said that although a few Rohingya trace their ancestry to Muslims who lived in Arakan in the 15th and 16th centuries, most Rohingyas arrived with the British colonialists in the 19th and 20th centuries. I wonder how many people have taken the trouble to understand that for centuries the Burmese have wanted the Arakan Muslims out of Burma. It is not just something that has festered since Independence in 1948. Now, it seems, Chinese connected commercial interests are pushing state sponsored land-grabbing at a fast rate.

In late 2017, as a member of a ‘Citizens’ Commission for Investigating Genocide and Terrorism in Burma ‘, I visited the Kutapulong and Balukhali refugee camps at Teknaf. Collecting evidence that could be used in any submission to the International Criminal Court, we interviewed a number of refugees who had recently arrived in Cox’s Bazar District. I remember that one man told us that:

– no new mosques could be built for the last 20 years

– they have not been able to pray in existing mosques for the last 5 years

– even in a village with 100 Muslim families and 5 Buddhist families, the village leader always has to be Buddhist

– children have not been able/allowed to go to school since August 25, 2017

– married couples are not allowed to have more than two children

– birth registration has not been done for the last few years

– the nearest health facility is 1.75 miles away but only Burmese Buddhists are seen there from 2015

– in 2010, he and his father were forced to vote (to give a semblance of ‘democracy’)

Although the Rohingya from Rakhine have no status, many of the Rohingya with whom I talked said they would go back to their homes in Rakhine State if they were convinced it would be safe, their land was restored to them and ownership was guaranteed and they were given Myanmar citizenship. A number of them said that they had brought their land documents with them and so could prove ownership. However, one old woman told me that this was the third time she had escaped persecution and certain death and come to Bangladesh as a refugee, and that this time she would refuse to go back to Rakhine State. It will, indeed, be very difficult to persuade many Rohingya to return to Rakhine State.

As demanded by the refugees, the pre-requisites for repatriation are:

– Recognition of the Rohingya as an indigenous ethnic minority of Myanmar

– Issuance of national security cards to all Rohingya

– Lift all form of restrictions and harassments such as travel ban, marriage restriction, land and property confiscation, extortion, arbitrary arrest, forced ration collection for army etc.

– Stop building model villages and send back all model villagers to their original villages

– Return all confiscated lands and properties to the original owners

– Give assurance for religious freedom

– Give access for higher education and provide enough hospitals and medical facilities in northern Arakan.

The International Community has neglected the Rohingya problem for decades and now, with some countries blocking negotiations, the way ahead is uncertain to say the least. Severe sanctions should have been clamped down on Myanmar a long time ago. The Bangladesh Government has been too polite in their negotiations with Myanmar. The Government needs to increase the pressure on Myanmar and internationally to ensure that the recommendations of the Kofi Annan report are accepted and implemented as quickly as possible.

 Julian Francis has been associated with relief and development activities of Bangladesh since the War of Liberation. In 2012, the Government of Bangladesh awarded him the ‘Friends of Liberation War Honour’ in recognition of his work among the refugees in India in 1971 and in 2018 honoured him with full Bangladesh Citizenship. In 2019, Julian has also been honoured with the award of the OBE for services to development in Bangladesh.

Source: https://opinion.bdnews24.com/2019/09/06/the-rohingya-problem-two-years-on/ 

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Rohingya Relocation: Support our plan or leave the country

Home > Front Page
12:00 AM, September 06, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:35 AM, September 06, 2019

Rohingya Relocation: Support our plan or leave the country

FM tells UN agencies, reports Deutsche Welle

Photo: File/Collected

Staff Correspondent

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has said if the UN agencies do not support the government’s plan to move 100,000 Rohingya refugees to an island in the Bay of Bengal, they would be expelled, if necessary, reports the Deutsche Welle.

In an interview, published on the German broadcaster’s website on Wednesday, he was asked if he would expel the UN agencies if they didn’t support his plans. “We’ll do it if necessary,” he replied.

He also expressed disappointment that the UN had failed to put enough pressure on Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas. “It is time to relocate them to Bhasan Char. But the island cannot accommodate all of them; we can send only 100,000 refugees there,” he said, when asked if the refugees’ reluctance to return to Myanmar prompted the government to make the plan.

“We didn’t want to repatriate them forcefully. We had hoped it would be done voluntarily. “The island offers economic activities to the refugees. But the aid agencies working in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps don’t want to move to Bhasan Char. In Cox’s Bazar, they stay in five-star hotels and so they don’t want to go to another place. “We are also identifying international non-government organisations that are politicising the Rohingya issue.”

Even if the UN agencies don’t support the relocation plan, the government might go ahead with it, the foreign minister said. “We have seized many leaflets, CDs and videos that urge Rohingyas not to go back to Myanmar if certain demands are not met. Myanmar authorities have agreed to meet one of these demands: provide safety, security and mobility to the Rohingya people.”

Demands such as granting citizenship to Rohingyas, punishment for people involved in the Rohingya massacre, recognising Rohingya as an ethnic group, and allowing them to return to their own homes have not been agreed upon.

The government can relocate 100,000 Rohingyas to Bhasan Char without UN support, Momen said. “The UN has to agree to the plan or it can take the refugees with them. Already, some of these people are getting involved in criminal activities.”

The number of Rohingya refugees in the area is more than double the number of local citizens. The local residents are increasingly complaining of criminal activities, he said.“We cannot allow that. That is why we could force their relocation.

“Bangladesh is not a rich nation. We’re the world’s most densely populated country. Still, we have done a lot for the Rohingya. It’s time for others to come forward because it is not just our problem. It’s an international issue, and had we not given them protection, they could have faced a genocide.

“We are willing to send them anywhere, to anyone who wants to take them. We cannot afford to keep them for years.” The arrangement at the Bhasan Char island would be temporary. Bangladesh cannot keep them there forever, Momen said.

Asked if the government should antagonise the UN, he said the UN was not helping much. “They are not working to create a conducive environment in Mynamar’s Rakhine state.

Why don’t these UN aid agencies work in Myanmar?

  They should go to Myanmar, especially to Rakhine state, to create conditions that could help these refugees to go back to their country. The UN is not doing the job that we expect them to do.”

Regarding the safety of human inhabitation in the island, Momen said the government had built embankments and beautiful houses there. “If we tell Bangladeshi people to go there, they would definitely go there.” If the refugees move to Bhasan Char, they would be able to enjoy free movement there, he said.

 Related Topics : Rohingya Relocation

 Source:  https://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/leave-bangladesh-or-support-rohingya-relocation-plan-1796275

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Posted in International, Media, Myanmar, Publication, Report, Rohingya
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