• Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019
  • Last Update : 02:44 pm

Rohingya repatriation: Host community hopes for good old days

  • Published at 12:27 am August 22nd, 2019
web-makeshift rohingya camp in cox’s Bazar
This photo taken recently shows a makeshift rohingya camp in cox’s Bazar Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

The 50-year-old claimed that he owned two acres of land, where he started living with his family since 2010. He reared cattle, cultivated betel leaves, and other seasonal crops

Md Shafi regrets living on a piece of land he bought around three decades ago that fell within the perimeter of a Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar over time.

The 50-year-old claimed that he owned two acres of land, where he started living with his family since 2010. He reared cattle, cultivated betel leaves, and other seasonal crops.

In course of time, he lost almost all his land to growing influx of Rohingyas, especially after the Myanmar military’s brutal crackdown that forced nearly 700,000 Rohingyas to flee Rakhine state, to neighbouring Bangladesh.

He, however, is hopeful that his family will start living in peace again when tranquility returns to his home in the hillock after the existing camp-12 at Balukhali of Ukhiya upazila has disappeared.

“I really feel bad whenever I recall my golden memories. But, I am rather worried about the future of my children as they may face much tougher days,” he said.

A father of four sons and two daughters, Shafi now runs a small grocery shop. He said that his income is inadequate to support his family.

Three of his sons are currently working to support their family, while the fourth son and two daughters are studying at a local school.

“I still do not know what will happen to them [the children],” he further said expressing hope that they will be able to overcome the economic and educational hurdles once the Rohingya crisis is over.

When asked why his elder sons ended their education prematurely other than for financial reasons, Shafi said: “In an area immensely overcrowded, it is not always possible to even prepare for the daily lessons. Considering the worsening and chaotic situation around my home, there was no choice but to let my three sons end their educational life.”

Shafi alleged that many Rohingya refugees living in the camp caused great havoc to his cattle and crops.

“They even burgled my home at least twice, taking away cash and gold,” he alleged, adding, Rohingyas very often lock into altercation with him and other host families over trifling issues.

Unlike him, Jafar Ahmed, 60, does not have much land. But Jafar said he is now facing existential dread due to the burgeoning camps.

“Neither my five brothers nor I got to see our children graduated from a school owing to financial hardship. The Rohingya influx added to our woes as we are struggling here for employment,” he said.

Since the Rohingya labourers are much cheaper they get more preference over the natives, he said.

Expressing his fear over the future of his grandchildren, Jafar wished the Rohingyas to be repatriated safely and properly, so his family can live a free life yet again.

The two men are among scores living in 34 refugee camps in the coastal district who shared their views about the Rohingya repatriation. There is a potential repatriation of 3,540 Rohingya refugees to Myanmar on Thursday.

Extremely densely populated, all the camps at Teknaf and Ukhiya upazilas accommodating more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees are now grappling to provide a healthy living atmosphere.

According to the host communities, the massive influx also impacted employment, healthcare facilities and education.

The scenario

The host community’s frustration is pictured in a recent study which says 4,136 acres of the natural forest and 2,027 acres of planted forest were lost due to the Rohingya influx.

Conducted jointly by the UNDP and Policy Research Institute (PRI), the report styled “Impacts of the Rohingya Refugee Influx on Host Communities” further says Poverty headcount ratio has risen by nearly 2.7% in Teknaf and Ukhiya upazilas due to the crisis.

Aid money has boosted the local economy to some extent, but price hike and loss of wages have had a negative impact on the host community in the long run, it reads.