Experts on refugee issues, international politics and disaster management gathered at a dialogue titled ‘Rohingya Crisis: Reasons, Process and our Responsibilities’ in the capital on Saturday to discuss the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis. Coordinated efforts are required to handle the refugee crisis and to prevent unwarranted situations, the experts said.
Former professor, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka
In 1978, when 200,000 Rohingyas came here, they were sent back to Myanmar by discussions. Those who came here in the '90s were also sent back. But the waves of Rohingya who came to Bangladesh since 2012 could not be stopped. Not a single one of them went back to their country.
The proposal of making a safe zone inside Myanmar is not possible right now as Maynmar does not want that and the international pressure required to make them comply is also absent. The idea of distributing refugees among other countries is also not possible as there is no previous history that any country has taken such a large number of refugees.
We should not push them to other countries as Rohingyas are Myanmar citizens and if they cannot enter their country, it fulfils Myanmar’s desire of removing them forever from the country. It is like approving the atrocity Myanmar committed on its own nationals.
The best option is to send them back to their motherland. The process will be lengthy and strong international pressure will be needed so that Myanmar accepts them as citizens.
Professor, political science department, director, Refugee and Migrating Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), University of Dhaka
We should stay focused on two issues — first to sort out what is required for the refugees and second to find solutions to their problems in Myanmar.
Bangladesh decided not to let any refugees to enter but the wave of incoming people compelled the country to change its stance. Bangladeshi nationals also have sympathy for them. The UN, some other countries and international organisations have come up with relief assistance. Now we need to chalk out a detailed plan.
There should be a plan to distribute relief fairly among the refugees. There should be committees to do that. The UNHCR should take the lead. The government can introduce an online system where individuals who have donated for the refugees can keep track of their donations.
To recognise the refugees, their registration should be completed as quickly as possible. The victims now need homes, clean water and treatment. Especially women, a big number of them were raped by army in Myanmar. They need extra health care and counselling to overcome trauma.
Apart from the pressure from the global community, Bangladesh should continue discussions with Myanmar to find out ways to send back the refugees to their country.
Gawher Nayeem Wahra
Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies, University of Dhaka
The whole management system of refugee crisis here should be brought under a single command. The Bangladesh government will decide what will be the role of UNHCR and IOM. Cox’s Bazar can be the headquarters to look after the relief and welfare works for the Rohingyas. There should be a one-stop service for them there. The NGOs should be asked to set up office there to run their programs, not from other scattered places.
Bangladesh is now like a volcano which can explode any time. The government says that we have 97 immunisations done for our citizens, but those who are coming from Myanmar had no immunisation services for them. As a result, malaria, tuberculosis, polio affected people may also be coming in. If they move around the country, they might spread such diseases. It is a big public health issue.
People are coming from home and abroad with relief. Many come with other hidden harmful purposes. We should not allow them to distribute relief materials directly. If anyone wants to come from abroad they need to go through government approval. Besides, people going there have to know how to behave with refugee victims.
The refugees have only arrived and now our citizens have sympathy for them because of their plights. But after a while, we will start counting the days till they leave Bangladesh. Already resentment has grown among people in those areas as price of everyday commodities have gone up due to the refugee influx.
Eventually, we will need to move the refugees to Ukhiya as Teknaf has little clean water. The government should also keep a treatment scheme for victim women and children in its master plan. We should also keep the option open of sending them to other countries who want to share the refugees.
Dr Salimullah Khan
Professor, general education department, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh
The scope of influx of militants in guise of Rohingya refugees is not illogical. We also have to know why Rohingya people are coming here. What are the reasons behind this?
The problem began during the British colonial period. For a long term solution of this racist problem, Myanmar has to recognise that apart from the Burmese, eight other races also live in the country. History shows that the Myanmar’s ruling class tried to acknowledge the Rohingya as Arakanese while they wanted to keep their own identity. The Rohingya Muslims are not the only Muslims in Myanmar.
We have become India-oriented since Independence. We have to rebuild cultural, social and diplomatic relations with Myanmar.
According to United Nations convention, the ongoing mass killing of Rohingya in Myanmar can be termed as genocide that cannot be tolerable. If we cannot make the world realise this, it will be our failure.
Bangladesh as a country may be small and weak but we can solve this issue in the long run. We have to gear up connections with international bodies and neighbouring countries to create strong pressure on Myanmar so that they stop the genocide and take back the Rohingyas. Myanmar is their homeland.
Researcher and anthropologist
Our first duty is to stand with the Rohingya refugees without any kind of hesitation or confusion. Everyone should come forward in a combined process to help the rootless people. We should respect them and protect the Rohingya women and children from any kind of violation. We must think about their dignity. We should not treat them as beggars. We have to listen to their experiences and emotions.
From the experience of being a refugee from the country’s hill regions during 1971, I try to judge their grief, limitations and emotions with my experience. There are many dimensions to the Rohingya issue. We have to understand the issue from different aspects and judge how much we can handle while keeping ourselves safe from social hazards. We have to give priority to their needs.
Dr Abul Hussain Ahmed Kamal
Professor, History department, University of Dhaka
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited the Rohingya refugees and introduced biometric registration for them. If the registration process had started at the beginning, it would have been easier to provide help for the Rohingya. Then the refugees would not be able to to spread out all over the country. It would also help the government identify the them to send them back to Myanmar.
Bangladesh like other small nations is dependent on global politics. We have to conduct aggressive diplomacy across the world to address the Rohingya issue. India, China and Russia are now standing with Myanmar because they want the resources of Myanmar. USA is also trying to cash in on the issue. We have to inform the entire world about the ongoing situation. For that, we need national unity.