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Dhaka Tribune

PM Hasina to world: Do not forget Rohingyas

  • Asks countries to redouble efforts to ensure lasting solution
  • Calls for holding perpetrators accountable
  • Highlights burden on host community 
Update : 22 Sep 2023, 09:37 AM

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday urged the international community to keep humanitarian assistance for Rohingyas and their repatriation on top of the agenda for a solution to the crisis created by Myanmar.

The prime minister was speaking at the 78th United Nations General Assembly high-level side event titled “Have they forgotten us?” Bangladesh with the co-sponsorship of Canada, Gambia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States organized the event.

“Continue your humanitarian efforts to ensure the sustenance of these ill-fated and hapless human beings,” said the Bangladesh leader.

She also called for pursuing ongoing and available legal and multilateral mechanisms to ensure “accountability of the perpetrators who committed persistent… and systematic heinous atrocities against this ethnic minority.”

She also urged redoubled concerted efforts to ensure lasting solutions to this problem with voluntary repatriation being the most viable one.

The premier said the Rohingya issue has now reached a point of stagnation. Not a single displaced Rohingya has been able to return to their home in Myanmar in the last six years, she noted. 

“Their prolonged presence in Bangladesh is not only pushing them further into hopelessness, it is also making the situation in Cox’s Bazaar precarious. The host community has become a victim of their own generosity,” she said.

On top of that, she said, global attention to their needs is rapidly diminishing, which is evident in increasing funding gaps in the humanitarian response plan.

Sheikh Hasina said everyone is aware that the entire world is going through turmoil. "The number of people displaced by conflict, climate change and other factors has reached a record high. The international community is overwhelmed by the scale and dimensions of multiple crises that we all, as humans, are faced with."

“However, we cannot forget the Rohingyas. The 2017 exodus was not an isolated incident. They have been victims of persecution and exclusion in Myanmar for decades,” she told the meeting.

She said everyone has a responsibility to redress their victimization in a comprehensive manner. Humanitarian assistance is important for their sustenance, but it is not enough, the prime minister added. 

“We need to ensure that they are able to return to their homes in Myanmar and pursue a life of dignity and certainty,” she said.

And for that, she said, “we need to address the problem at its root, which lies in Myanmar.” “They need protection and opportunities in their own country so that they do not have to flee from their homes.”

Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh hosting over a million displaced Rohingyas for a long period of time has never been an option. 

“Bangladesh is a small country with a high population density. As one of the worst victims of global warming and sea level rise, we are already overburdened by the increasing number of climate-induced internally displaced persons,” she said.

Aside from that, she mentioned that the prolonged presence of Rohingyas has entailed "grave social, economic and security repercussions for our people."

“The biodiversity of Cox’s Bazar is seriously damaged by the destruction of 6,800 acres of reserved forest, which is now known as the largest refugee camp in the world,” she reminded the audience.

Against this backdrop, she said, “we have to focus on the early implementation of the bilateral arrangement of return that we signed with Myanmar” in November 2017. 

Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh is working with Myanmar to commence repatriation of the verified Rohingyas in small batches. 

In order to ensure that the process is transparent and voluntary, she mentioned that a series of interactions have been facilitated between Rohingyas and authorities in Myanmar. 

“The experience of the first batch of returnees would be crucial in guiding us in the future and addressing the gaps in the process,” she said.

The prime minister said that a pilot repatriation project, if implemented successfully, will keep hopes alive. 

“I hope the international community will come forward to help the Rohingya returnees reintegrate in Rakhine. The presence of humanitarian and development entities in Rakhine will act as an important confidence-building measure,” she said.

The prime minister said regional countries, especially Asean members, with their close and historic relationship with Myanmar, can take the lead role in this regard. 

Based on the comprehensive need assessment of the AHA Centre, small community-based projects may be undertaken involving returnee Rohingyas, she added.

In the meantime, she said, continued international attention is needed to effectively address the root causes of the Rohingya crisis. “Implementation of the Security Council and General Assembly resolutions on Myanmar is critical in this regard.”

Equally important is maintaining focus on the justice and accountability processes; unless and until the perpetrators of the atrocities are held accountable, risks of further persecution will remain alive, she said. 

“Besides, Rohingya victims and survivors will not be able to truly reconcile with their past and constructively pursue their future in Myanmar if they do not get justice,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh is fully committed to accountability processes, and it is closely working with the ICJ, IIMM and ICC. 

“I urge all other member states to cooperate with international justice mechanisms working in this regard.”

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