• Thursday, Feb 21, 2019
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When will Rohingyas be returned?

  • Published at 12:27 am August 26th, 2018
Locals say the influx of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar has led to increases in house rent, land prices, and transportation fares, among other complications Mahmood Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

The local population is concerned by dwindling resources and the rising cost of living

Many locals of Cox’s Bazar are growing concerned about the presence of Rohingya refugees in the Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas — a year on from the Rohingyas’ August 25 exodus.

Rohingyas, sheltered in 32 camps on around 10,000 acres of land, presently outnumber the local population of Cox’s Bazar district. 

Bangladesh took in the refugees strictly on humanitarian grounds. Newly-arrived Rohingyas joined 400,000 other refugees already present from previous conflicts.

A year on from the onset of the crisis, the local population is concerned that the Rohingyas might stay longer than expected and that there is  no tangible headway in returning the refugees.

Speaking to the correspondent, locals said that they will continue to provide assistance to the forcibly displaced Rohingya—but they are concerned due to the additional pressure the refugees are putting on: food, sanitation, shelter, commodity prices, natural resources, and the cost of transportation.

Many local people have begun to think of the Rohingyas as burden

‘Getting out of control’

Speaking to a number of local residents in Cox’s Bazar, Ukhiya, and Teknaf on the Rohingya issue, the Dhaka Tribune has received a lot of negative feedback about the refugees staying in the region.

Echoing the same view, foreign delegates termed the Rohingya crisis a burden for an under-developed country such as Bangladesh, after visiting the camps, in person, throughout the last year.

Stating on multiple occasions that the root of the Rohingya crisis lies in Myanmar, Bangladesh’s government, led Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has urged the international community to maintain diplomatic pressure on Myanmar for a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Since the advent of this crisis, Sheikh Hasina has also urged different international communities, at home and abroad to support the safe and dignified return of Rohingyas to their homeland.

Addressing the issue, Rohingya Protyabason Songram Committee President Professor Hamidul Haque Chowdhury said: “People’s livelihoods in: Ukhiya, Teknaf, Ramu, and other parts of Cox’s Bazar district are in a mess— due to the ongoing Rohingya crisis.

“House rent, land prices, transportation fare, the academic sector, and prices for necessary commodities are surging out of control every day. The status of law and order has deteriorated as time has progressed.”

He continued: “Besides, some local and foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from are ignoring Bangladeshi laws and social norms, while they operate in the region.

“As a result, our day-to-day lives are being disrupted. Unless the situation is resolved as soon as possible, the future generation of Bangladeshis will be affected the most by the refugee crisis. We have no option but to send back the Rohingyas to their homeland.”

Voicing the same opinion, local social activist and President of Ukhiya unit Awami League, Professor Adil Chowdhury said: “The Rohingyas are a burden for our country, and the government is making serious efforts to resolve the problem peacefully.”

Around 75% of the forcibly displaced Rohingya refugees are staying in Ukhiya upazila. 

According to the Cox's Bazar District Education Office, the academic sector of Ukhiya and Teknaf has deteriorated due to the Rohingya crisis—which is clearly reflected by the recently published SSC and HSC examination results of students in the region.

Both upazilas witnessed record low pass rates this year.

The low-income people in Cox’s Bazar are now concerned about their future, as the Rohingya crisis continues to put immense strain on infrastructure, services, and the low-paid job sectors.

Additionally, the local population and the Rohingyas frequently disagree on various issues.

According to Cox's Bazar district police, only a month ago, locals and Rohingyas clashed in Teknaf upazila, leaving around 30 people injured—including several policemen.

Commenting on the matter, M Gofur Uddin Chowdury, chairman of Palangkhali union parishad of Ukhiya, said: “Some groups are exploiting the needy Rohingyas, and using them to carry out illicit acts such as peddling drugs and trading arms.

“Consequences of such illegal acts never bide well for the local populace.”

Meanwhile, Teknaf’s Whykhang union parishad Chairman Noor Ahmed Anwari demanded immediate measures to repatriate the Rohingyas, and sheltering them in a place which bars them from mingling with Bangladeshis.

“Rohingyas are also increasing the threat of an outbreak of different diseases, such as cholera, diphtheria, diarrhoea and malaria,” he said.

Sources from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Forest and Environment Ministry confirmed that the Rohingyas have completely destroyed at least 5,000 acres of reserved forestland.

The local community, who has hosted the refugees for the past year, are now looking for an answer regarding when the Rohingya people are going to be returned to their homeland.