'If people die due to landslides following heavy rainfall, we will not take responsibility'
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Thursday said those who are opposing the relocation of Rohingya refugees to Bhashan Char Island should take responsibility if there are any casualties at the Cox's Bazar camps during the monsoon season.
"If people die due to landslides following heavy rainfall, we will not take responsibility. You who are creating barriers [to the Bhashan Char relocation] should be held responsible. This is your responsibility," he said during a meeting with three visiting top UN officials, reports UNB.
UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi, International Organization for Migration (IOM) Director General Antonio Vitorino, and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) head and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock jointly met with the foreign minister before leaving for Cox’s Bazar on the day.
The foreign minister spoke to reporters after the meeting, at his office.
He mentioned that weather forecasts suggest there will be heavy rainfall during the upcoming monsoon season.
Bangladesh is currently hosting over 1.1 million Rohingya refugees at the Cox's Bazar camps, most of who arrived after a military crackdown in Rakhine State of Myanmar on August 25, 2017.
According to the foreign minister, Bangladesh said the relocation of Rohingya people to Bhashan Char Island will help address the congestion problem in Cox's Bazar Rohingya camps.
Bangladesh also informed the visiting top UN officials that the government has already developed Bhashan Char Island to accommodate around 100,000 Rohingyas.
The foreign minister also encouraged the UN officials to visit Myanmar and work in Rakhine state, as the Rohingya problem lies in Myanmar, and said Bangladesh is doing everything that is necessary for the refugees.
He also reiterated that Bangladesh wants to see a peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis.
Responding to a question, the foreign minister said there are many children in the camps, but they should learn their own language and Myanmar’s history as they will have to return their place of origin.
Meanwhile, OCHA head Lowcock told reporters it is extremely important that the international community sustains its support for Bangladesh in looking after the Rohingyas.
It is also extremely important for the UN that the work continues to find the solution to the crisis that is originated from Myanmar, Lowcock said, noting Bangladesh's "tremendous and exceptional generosity shown towards Rohingya people.
"UN will continue to do everything it can to promote solutions inside Myanmar," he said, adding that they had very "constructive and fruitful" discussion with the government of Bangladesh.
Antonio Vitorino laid emphasis on easing the suffering and pain of the Rohingya population, but also said the impact on the Bangladesh community needs to be minimized.
Filippo Grandi said the UN is working with the Government of Myanmar to try and find a solution for the Rohingya community.
"We're making assessments," he said, adding that complicated problems, including the Rohingya citizenship issue, need to be addressed to create a climate of confidence that will allow Rohingya refugees to take the voluntary decision to go back.
Responding to a question, he said he hopes to visit Myanmar soon so that they can continue the discussion on the other side of the border.
He also said it is crucial that he visits Northern Rakhine if he goes to Myanmar.
On Wednesday, the UN officials met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam.
The UN officials are now in Cox's Bazar and will visit the Rohingya camps on Friday.
On March 25, the UN appreciated Bangladesh's efforts to seek alternative locations for Rohingyas, but sought clarification about the modalities of potential relocation of the Rohingya people to Bhashan Char.
The Government of Bangladesh says it plans to relocate Rohingya people from Cox's Bazar to Bhashan Char, which could help "decongest" the overcrowded settlements in Cox's Bazar.
"We're seeking clarification about the modalities of any relocation, the living conditions that would be provided and the basic rights and services that refugees would be able to access if they decide to relocate to Bhashan Char," said the UN in Bangladesh in a press statement.