Inside a squalid refugee camp for about a million Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar, Giorgi Gigauri, chief of mission of the International Organization of Migration (IOM) in Bangladesh, discussed the latest developments in Rohingya crisis with Dhaka Tribune’s Kamrul Hasan
How is the IOM helping the displaced Rohingya community in Bangladesh?
We work on shelter, healthcare, not just for the Rohingya but also for the host communities of Teknaf, and Ukhiya. We do – WASH – Water and Sanitation Hygiene – we just recently launched one of the largest humanitarian water network systems in the world. We do CWC – Communication with Community, we work to prevent gender-based violence, and human trafficking.
Then we also work to keep peace among the hosts, and the Rohingyas.
Who do you think suffered the most from the influx?
The Rohingyas themselves are the most affected of course, but it is crucial to remember that the locals have been deeply affected by this crisis. In 2017, everyone's focus was on the Rohingyas. But now, after two years have passed, we need to focus on the local community, that includes creating jobs, and also other livelihood assistance. Reforestation can be carried out to rebuild the ecosystem.
Are the current activities enough for the development of the Rohingya children?
This is a very important issue. We do not want to create a lost generation. This is not just about ensuring that children have access to education, this is their future investment.
Their mental health is also an issue. Children need to be occupied. They need to be doing something. If you have nothing to do, bad people will try to take advantage of that. It is everyone’s job to make sure this does not happen.
Have the issues related to gender-based violence, and social stigma for Rohingya women been addressed properly in the last two years? Are the measures taken for their physical, and psychological development sufficient?
The government, the UN, and many NGOs have done a lot of work, but we need to do more, not just for women, but also men, and children.
We need to identify the most damaged, and prioritize them.
It is important to remember that communities all around the world have always developed a community-based coping mechanism.
Are the supporting initiatives enough for the Rohingya?
If you take a person and isolate them, and make them do nothing, they will definitely be frustrated. There is frustration. Some of them were quite affluent, and losing everything came as a shock to them.
It is never a good idea to leave any population idle.
The government policy is very clear. The Rohingya people cannot work. They are not allowed to earn. But there are many things happening inside camps that includes volunteering program (for Rohingya men).
But we need to go one step further. We need to give them training, and education.
Is there any risk of being trafficked from the camps?
Of course, there is a risk. It is much easier for the traffickers to prey on the most vulnerable, and the Rohingyas are very desperate.
There are precarious situations where people can come and go, and exploit it. We have to do more to counter trafficking in the camps.
But trafficking is also a national problem for Bangladesh. The Rohingya trafficking is just a new element.
Although the local people are suffering from multidimensional problem due to the crisis. How are they reacting to the displaced people, and how is the IOM providing support to the local community?
The host community is very welcoming, understanding, and helpful to the displaced people. As time goes by, it will be difficult to be tolerant, because they are using your land, and resources.
If we do not address the problem, it will slowly create tensions, and could result in a conflict.
We have to make sure that the host community are compensated as much as possible. A lot of money is coming from the World Bank, ADB, and the UN.
It has been said that financial support for Rohingya crisis is gradually decreasing. What’s your view?
There are two perspectives. In the immediate future, I am less worried, because of the big donors.
If you look at the upcoming contribution already being implemented by the World Bank, and ADB, the pipeline of funds seems to be okay.
Now we have to make sure that the money is well spent.
In the long term, it is difficult to speculate. We all want them to go back. We really hope that repatriation can take place as soon as possible.
What is the IOM’s perspective on repatriation?
We know the Rohingyas want to return. As long as the return is voluntary, dignified, and sustainable, what better outcome can anybody hope for? This is everything we ever wanted.