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Dhaka Tribune

World cannot turn a blind eye to Rohingya problem

Has Bangladesh made a mistake by showing humanity? Myanmar's non-cooperation, lack of adequate preparation, and insincerity continues to exacerbate the issue

Update : 25 Jun 2023, 10:42 AM

World Refugee Day was celebrated on June 20. As Bangladesh has not yet signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, there is no merit in not officially celebrating this red-letter day. Rather, Bangladesh can try to help resolve the Rohingya problem by using this opportunity to draw attention to it.

Many countries have not signed the convention. Despite that, they observe World Refugee Day as members of the United Nations.

This special day is used as a global platform to support the rights, needs and dreams of people living as refugees in various countries around the world.

Every year, World Refugee Day has a theme. This year's theme is "House of hope even for the homeless: where the world's refugees are always included."

It aims to include refugees in the policy framework of the host state. It is the power of inclusion that can bring real and long-term solutions to the refugee problem.

According to the UN, refugees must consider their host country to be safe, which means they must feel included in that society to some degree.

If it is possible for them to be safely repatriated -- in this case, to Myanmar -- then this must be facilitated so they can go home and contribute to economic development there, the UN states.

However, this is one of the problems of the United Nations: The topic of why people leave their countries and seek refuge elsewhere is never at the centre of the discussion.

Rather, the focus is on how to integrate refugees into countries that shelter them on humanitarian grounds. The growing number of refugees is a major problem in the world today.

After the Second World War, various initiatives and many laws and international policies have been made to reduce the number of refugees in the world. But has the problem been reduced? On the contrary, it has only increased in severity.

Recently, the United Nations Refugee Agency published a report which showed the number of forcibly displaced people in the world now stands at about 110 million.

According to the information given on the website of the United Nations Refugee Agency, the total number of refugees in the world is about 350 million, and the number of asylum seekers is about 5.4 million. Meanwhile, there are about 10 million stateless people.

Looking at these statistics, it can be assumed the number of displaced people is increasing.

Who is responsible for this rising trend? Whatever the answer, capitalist, hegemonic, authoritarian and imperialist states, as well as the United Nations, must respond to this.

The people of Bangladesh are also victims of the Rohingya refugee problem. Therefore, a detailed discussion of the Rohingya problem is essential to find what should be done immediately to solve it.

Bangladesh currently has over 1.2 million Rohingya refugees living in 34 temporary refugee camps. Even though the repatriation process has been going on for almost six years, not a single Rohingya has been officially sent back to Myanmar.

This is due to Myanmar's non-cooperation, lack of adequate preparation, and insincerity. Apart from that, how will the security of their lives be guaranteed?

No credible promises have been made by anyone about the return of the villagers left behind in Rakhine and the guarantee of citizenship. The international community is silent here.

The UN is not involved in the repatriation process in any way. Instead, the UN refugee agency has been issuing statements at regular intervals to discourage repatriation.

In such a situation, Bangladesh can use World Refugee Day to show the world what kind of problems it is facing due to sheltering more than 1.2 million Rohingya refugees with appropriate research data.

An exchange of views can be arranged with officials from various international embassies residing in Bangladesh, where possible and effective processes and procedures for the Rohingya solution will be discussed.

International cooperation in running Rohingya refugee camps is decreasing. As a result, the onus falls on taxpayers in Bangladesh to subsidize the camps.

Has Bangladesh made a mistake by showing humanity? Six years have already passed. But the international community is not playing any effective role in solving the Rohingya problem -- that too needs to be made clear to everyone.

Fumiko Yamada specializes in Bangladesh affairs. She is a research fellow in Bangladesh Studies at the University of Melbourne, Australia. This article first appeared on the Bangkok Post and has been republished under special arrangement.

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