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TIB: Diplomatic limitations led to failed Rohingya repatriation

  • Published at 02:24 pm December 5th, 2019
Rohingya
Photo shows a rohingya camp in Cox 's Bazar Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

The press briefing was held following a report on the study, 'Bangladesh’s Stance on Forcible Displaced Rohingyas: Challenges to Good Governance and Ways to Overcome,' was unveiled

The executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) yesterday said that Bangladesh tried its level best to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Myanmar but failed due to its diplomatic limitations.

“Dhaka did not diplomatically fail in the repatriation process. Rather, I would say it was our limitations that thwarted the repatriation of the Rohingya people,” Dr Iftekharuzzaman told a press conference at the TIB office in Dhaka’s Dhanmondi.

The press briefing was held following a report on the study, “Bangladesh’s Stance on Forcible Displaced Rohingyas: Challenges to Good Governance and Ways to Overcome,” was unveiled.

He said Myanmar, many international agencies, and foreign states, thwarted Bangladesh’s hectic attempts to repatriate the Rohingyas to their homeland.

“The countries backing Myanmar, donor agencies, and NGOs [non-governmental organizations] think that they are showing sympathy to Bangladesh by supplying relief to the refugees,” he observed.

“Countries including India, China, and Japan are supporting Myanmar so that the repatriation process fails,” said Iftekharuzzaman, adding that the UN also cannot avoid responsibility for the failed repatriation and the Rohingya influx.

“The UN had information that a persecution of the Rohingya was likely, but failed or did not take proper and timely measures. It all happened under the very nose of the UN,” he said.

“Maybe the UN with vested interests did not step forward in time on the matter. Many media reports, by both local and international outlets, also published the UN’s inaction in the Rohingya crisis,” Iftekharuzzaman said.

TIB officials Md Shahnur Rahman, Nazmul Huda Mina, and Golam Mohiuddin, carried out the research collecting data between October 13 and 30 this year, from various government offices and NGOs working in Cox’s Bazar.

Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Dr Iftekharuzzaman addresses a press meet at the TIB office in Dhaka on December 5, 2019 | Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

They also interviewed people from both host and refugee communities over that period.

Analyzing the report, Dr Iftekharuzzaman said: “We fear that the nearly 10 million Rohingyas sheltering at different refugees camps may stay for a long while.

“Despite such a circumstance, the government is not making any long term plan, which is a must,” he said.

The TIB executive director added that NGOs and donor agencies may not continue lending a helping hand with funds and relief materials in the future.

“So, Bangladesh must have short-term, middle-term, and long-term plans for funding. All stakeholders must be engaged in the process,” he suggested.

Bangladesh is currently hosting the largest number of stateless people in the world, about 906,000 persons, due to the Rohingya exodus that began on August 25, 2017, according to the International Organization of Migration.

Bangladesh tried to repatriate the Rohingyas to Myanmar twice –  first in November 2018 and later in August 2019 – but both attempts failed due to the unwillingness of the refugees to return.

On both occasions, they said that Myanmar had not created a congenial atmosphere suitable for their return. Some leading NGOs also attested to that fact.

Bangladesh will not make a third attempt of repatriation without confirmation of its success, said concerned officials.

‘UN agencies not transparent’

Talking about accountability of the UN and its different agencies, Dr Iftekharuzzaman said they themselves claim to be transparent, but they are not.

“We had to repeatedly seek information on operating costs from several UN agencies taking care of different projects at Rohingya camps,” he said.

Several Rohingya people standing outside the office of the camp-in-charge of Camp No 26, Shalbagan, Teknaf after appearing for an interview with UNHCR and RRRC representatives | Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

The UN bodies showed a 3%-32% spending of the total project funds as their operational costs, the TIB official said.

“But they themselves do not run any project. Their implementing organizations [third-party outsourcing] materialize the projects. So, operational costs of the implementing agencies are included in the expenditure that the UN bodies show for running a project,” he said.

“Hence, the operating costs are calculated twice. Only the respective implementing agencies can say about the actual operation cost, but they do not want to reveal the expenditure,” he added.

“UN bodies claim they maintain transparency, but in reality we do not see the matter being reflected,” he concluded.

UN agencies’ operational costs from late August 2017 to November 30, 2019 (in percentages)

 Agency

 Percentage

 UN Women

 32.6%

UNHCR

 25.98%

UNFPA

18% 

WHO

17%

IOM

14.7%

WFP

10.3%

Unicef

3%