Bangladesh’s current position on Rohingyas

By Mizan Rahman/Dhaka

Some of the Rohingya refugees wait to return home to Myanmar Bangladesh had widely welcomed the “brothers in trouble” as it witnessed first Rohingya refugee influx in 1978, but the realities stand reversed in 2012 when the Myanmar’s ethnic minority community is not welcome despite their exposure to sectarian violence in their homeland.

This year Bangladesh has refused to welcome the fresh influx of Muslim Rohingyas in the wake the violence in the Buddhist-dominated western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, saying Bangladesh is already over-burdened with some 400,000 refugees.

Bangladesh reaffirmed its stance on the Rohingya refugees on Wednesday and said it wants immediate repatriation of thousands of Rohingyas from its territory as the new envoy of the East Asian neighbour called on Foreign Minister Dipu Moni at her office in Dhaka.

“Rohingya (refugees) are your citizens and it is your concern to bring them back to their homes in Myanmar from Bangladesh,” a foreign ministry spokesman quoted her as telling Myanmar Ambassador Myo Myint Than.

Several analysts said a recent comment by Myanmar President Thein Sein apparently complicated further the situation prompting Dhaka to toughen its stance on Rohingya issue as he said refugee camps abroad or deportation was the “solution” for these Muslim ethnic minority people.

Thein Sein, who struck a more conciliatory tone on the issue previously, now apparently has disowned Rohingyas as Myanmar nationals as he told the UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres last week “we will take responsibility for our ethnic people but it is impossible to accept the illegally-entered Rohingyas, who are not our ethnicity”.

“We want to consider this (Thein’s statement) as an internal affair of theirs (Myanmar) and we have no comment about it, (but) our stand on the Rohingya issue is clear – we want immediate return of the documented and undocumented Rohingyas,” Moni told newsmen.

She expected a resolution of the issue bilaterally but hinted that Dhaka might go for a desperate campaign to “internationalise” the issue if its efforts to reach a consensus with the neighbour failed.

An agriculture official in Cox’s Bazar district bordering Myanmar, Abu Taher, recalled that employees in government and private services had donated one day’s salary as some 200,000 Rohingyas fled their home to evade persecution under the then military junta.

“Without hesitation, I tell you they (Rohingyas) are not welcome anymore as we have seen consequences of allowing in them over the decades … they have captured the local labour market, causing social nuisance and creating law and order situation, he said.

Chairman of frontier Teknaf sub-district Sharif Mian supplemented him saying “they have occupied a vast stretch of land in the region, because of them the local people are being jobless . . . they are going abroad using Bangladeshi identity and, in many cases, are earning bad name for the country”.

Despite Bangladesh’s tough foreign policy stance and reservation of the local people towards the refugees, the government high ups, media and rights groups are sympathetic to their plight as boatloads of Rohingyas are coming to Bangladesh shoreline everyday since the sectarian violence erupted in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state two months ago.

They land in Bangladesh territory only to be pushed back to home by Bangladeshi border guards, but the frontier Border Guard Bangladesh and Coastguard treat them with a humane approach, providing them with food and water and monitor the weather if it is suitable for their safe return.

Newspaper readers also continue to send posts, recalling the refugee status of nearly 10mn Bangladeshis in India during the 1971 Liberation War to evade genocide as they respond to the reports carried on the Rohingyas.

Having their home in Rakhaine state and considered to be one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, the fate of an estimated 800,000 Rohingyas in Myanmar appeared uncertain further amid reports that they were being systematically evicted from their homes to set up “model villages” for Buddhist population.

Bangladesh witnessed the second major refugee influx in 1991 when some 260,000 Rohingyas fled home to evade persecution by the then military junta while the exodus took place on a massive scale in two phases.

The Myanmar authorities earlier agreed to take back its nationals under a UNHCR brokered agreement in mid-1992 though some of the refugees repatriated on earlier occasions had sneaked back into Bangladesh.

But the repatriation process virtually remained stalled for years reportedly for apparent reluctance on the part of the Myanmar, causing protracted refuge of several thousand Rohingyas while their number multiplied in the subsequent years.

WFP’s helping hand

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) will provide $1.5mn from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to continue food and nutrition support to up to 31,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh.

The donation will enable the WFP to continue its work to improve food security and reduce malnutrition among registered refugees living in Kutupalong and Nayapara in Cox’s Bazar until the end of 2012, said a WFP officials in Dhaka yesterday.

“These refugees are almost totally reliant on outside assistance for their daily food needs and are a priority for us,” said WFP Representative in Bangladesh Christa Räder. “This generous contribution from the US will allow us to continue providing this essential support.”

Since 1992, the WFP has provided food assistance to registered refugees who fled to Bangladesh from Northern Rakhine State in Myanmar. More than half of all refugee households suffer high level of food insecurity.

About 16%% of children under-5 suffer from acute malnutrition, above the 15% emergency threshold, and half the refugee children under-5 are chronically malnourished.

The WFP provides a general ration to meet basic food needs and nutrition support, including blanket supplementary feeding for pregnant and nursing women and children aged 6-23 months, the official said.

Moderately undernourished children aged 24-59 months are also provided with a take home supplementary feeding ration. Besides, the WFP provides fortified biscuits to children in primary schools, pre-schools, older children enrolled in non-formal primary education and adolescents attending literacy classes.

Source: Gulf Times


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