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Govt optimistic about Rohingya relocation to Bhasan Char

  • Published at 07:33 pm December 2nd, 2019
File Photo: In this handout aerial photo taken on June 19, 2019 and released on October 21 by Mukta Dinwiddie MacLaren Architects shows buildings intended to accomodate members of the Rohingya refugee community on the silt islet Bhashan Char in the Bay of Bengal AFP

Since August 25, 2017, Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas and most of them entered Cox’s Bazar amid a military crackdown on the predominantly Muslim minority state Rakhine

The government is optimistic about implementing its plan to relocate Rohingyas to Bhasan Char after completing further technical assessment by an expert team, a senior government official has said.

The official said the government has not shelved its relocation plan at all on Monday, reports UNB.

He said: “We can do that. It’s [Rohingya relocation] possible.” 

UNHCR Representative in Bangladesh Steven Corliss said the UN's first technical assessment mission was scheduled to be done from November 17 to November 19.

He said the UN and the government of Bangladesh have agreed to “postpone” the visit to make sure that the right experts, and all the necessary logistical arrangements are in place.

“We are awaiting confirmation of an alternative date, and are also submitting terms of reference to the government for these onsite visits, which are part of a broader assessment process,” the UNHCR Representative added.

Responding to another question, Corliss said the exact composition of the teams will be defined by the UN objectives and the government’s nod for the visits.

Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque said the technical team is expected to visit the Bhasan Char on December. “They want to ensure some certain issues, and the process will begin after that,” he said.

File photo of a rohingya camp in Cox's Bazar | Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka TribuneReplying to a question, the foreign secretary said the UN has long been working with the government on the issue, and this is not correct to say the UN is opposing the Bhasan Char relocation plan.

Since August 25, 2017, Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas and most of them entered Cox’s Bazar amid a military crackdown on the predominantly Muslim minority state Rakhine.

Bhasan Char relocation plan is a “temporary arrangement” as the existing Rohingya camps are overcrowded with the risk of landslides and subsequent deaths.

While talking about this relocation issue, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said: “We will not force anybody to go there. We want to relocate them for their betterment to avoid risk or reduce risk.” 

The government of Bangladesh has already developed Bhasan Char island to accommodate some 1,00,000 Rohingyas.

During her recent visit in Bangladesh, UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner Kelly T Clements discussed the Bhasan Char issue as the plan is advanced.

While coming back from Cox’s Bazar, Clements and her colleagues flew over the island and had a “very distant glimpse” of some of the preparations.

Accountability and Justice 

Bangladesh is currently following a two-pronged approach over the Rohingya issue – humanitarian aspect, and accountability and justice front.

Foreign Secretary Shahidul said Bangladesh gave shelter to over 1.1 million Rohingyas on humanitarian ground while another aspect is accountability and justice. 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made it clear at the UNGA that the root cause of the Rohingya crisis needs to be addressed as Rohingyas returned to Bangladesh on various occasions in the past despite their repatriation, he said.

Responding to a question, Haque said: "Rohingya repatriation, and accountability and justice issues are deeply interlinked. Accountability is crucial for sustainable Rohingya repatriation.”

Asked whether the previous repatriations were a “premature” one, the foreign secretary parried the question.

Shahidul said Bangladesh’s policy on Rohingya issue is a mixed of bilateral and multilateral one, and Myanmar knows that Bangladesh is working on both fronts.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangladesh has so far handed over names of over 1,00,000 Rohingyas to the Myanmar authorities for verification and subsequently expediting their repatriation efforts but Myanmar is yet to take back its nationals from here.

On November 28, the UN Refugee Agency said it is extremely difficult to set a timeline when the conducive environment for the return of Rohingyas will be created.

The UNHCR called on the international community to continue its support to Bangladesh and the humanitarian response while, in parallel, working with the Myanmar government to support Myanmar to create the conditions conducive to sustainable return.