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‘New arrivals’ of Rohingyas cloud repatriation prospects

  • Published at 10:25 am January 13th, 2019
Rohingya
File photo of a Rohingya camp in Cox's Bazar Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Worsening situation in Rakhine brings worries

Despite Bangladesh's efforts to resume the repatriation process, the recent deteriorating condition in Myanmar’s Rakhine has worried all concerned, clouding repatriation prospects, officials are indicating.

More Rohingyas entered Bangladesh territory in recent days amid the further deteriorating scenario in Myanmar, the officials said.

In recent weeks, the intensification of violence between the "Arakan Army" and the Myanmar Army has led to increased humanitarian consequences for the civilian population, and caused the displacement of nearly five thousand people in Rakhine and Chin States.

"The situation is fragile there where Rohingyas were supposed to go back. We will certainly want to start the repatriation process," Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Mohammad Abul Kalam told the UNB.

Responding to a question, RRRC Kalam said they have heard about new entries but they are yet to verify it fully to determine the numbers. 

He said: "It is under verification process."

Situation Reviewed 

The national task force for Rohingya refugee response, chaired by Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque, reviewed the overall situation of Rohingyas on January 10 and discussed how the international community could get engaged to resolve the crisis.

"Firstly, we evaluated the repatriation-related situation and got updated on the recent incidents [in Myanmar]," a senior government official, who attended the meeting, told the UNB.

He said they also discussed the proposed 2019 joint response plan for Rohingya humanitarian relief to determine the funding mechanism and priority areas, reports the UNB. 

The plan will be finalized soon for formal launching.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam has already said the government will continue to take effective steps to address the pending issues, including solution to the Rohingya crisis.

He said they deliberately did not push the repatriation issue much before the election, as the repatriation could not take place as agreed by the two countries, though the two countries were very close to starting the repatriation.

"Our efforts will be expedited in the coming days; I can say that with confidence," Shahriar said, keeping focus on the listed and verified Rohingyas.

Bangladesh and Myanmar had agreed to begin the repetition of the first batch of Rohingyas by mid-November 2018, but it was halted.

The international community appreciated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's humanitarian support to nearly 1.1 million Rohingyas from Myanmar.

An official wishing to remain anonymous said more Rohingyas are coming to Bangladesh from other countries.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, has recently sought clarification from India over the return of Rohingyas and regretted India's decision to detain and repatriate some Rohingya asylum-seekers.

There are an estimated 18,000 Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in India, living across different locations, it said.

Lee to visit Rohingya camps 

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee will visit Bangladesh soon to see Rohingya situation in Cox's Bazar district amid Myanmar's continued denial to grant her access to Rakhine State.

Lee, who earlier said incidents in Rakhine State bear the "hallmarks of genocide" and called for accountability in the strongest terms, will begin her Bangladesh visit on January 19.

She also plans to visit the island of Bhashan Char in Noakhali. The Bangladesh government has planned to shift Rohingyas to the island.

The UN Special Rapporteur will present her findings and recommendations at the 40th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2019.

The UN Special Rapporteur will also visit Thailand from January 14 before travelling to Bangladesh on January 19, according to a message received from Geneva on Friday.

The Myanmar government has maintained its decision to cease cooperation with the Special Rapporteur, and refused her entry to Myanmar.

"I still seek to engage with the Myanmar government, and I remain committed to my mandate to monitor the situation of human rights in Myanmar. I will continue to meet people from Myanmar and speak out about human rights issues that occur around the country," said Lee on Friday.

ICRC Head of Delegation in Myanmar Stephan Sakalian said they are concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the latest armed clashes in Rakhine, particularly as it compounds an already precarious situation.

"The ICRC is concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the latest armed clashes in Rakhine, particularly as it compounds an already precarious situation," explains Sakalian, ICRC resident representative for Myanmar.

"Our teams have been active for the past three weeks, assessing and responding to the needs of affected communities. We hope to reach all of those in need."