The Financial Express

Bangladesh ensures Rohingya relocation on voluntary basis, foreign ministry says

It urges all not to undermine or misinterpret the genuine efforts of Bangladesh over the issue

| Updated: December 05, 2020 11:39:24

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Bangladesh ensures Rohingya relocation on voluntary basis, foreign ministry says

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said the government on Friday relocated more than 1600 Rohingya refugees, who voluntarily expressed their willingness for relocation, to Bhashan Char in Noakhali from Cox’s Bazar camps.

The ministry also urged the international community, including the United Nations and human rights groups, not to undermine or misinterpret the genuine efforts of Bangladesh.

“We urge all to exercise utmost caution not to undermine or misinterpret the genuine efforts of the Government of Bangladesh,” the foreign ministry said in a statement after relocating the first batch of displaced Myanmar people to Bhasan Char on Friday afternoon, reports BSS.

The first batch of Rohingya refugees were relocated as part of Bangladesh’s plan to relocate 1,00,000 Rohingyas to the island in the face of growing various concerns over the extreme congestion in the camps in Cox’s Bazar.

The ministry said that the government maintains a clear and transparent position on ensuring a voluntary relocation of Rohingyas to the island.

“Several rounds of discussions, based on the queries of the United Nations, were also arranged and we hope that the international community and the United Nations, as per its mandate, will be involved in the process very soon,” said the ministry.

Emphasising the fact that Rohingyas are Myanmar nationals and they must return to Myanmar, it said the Bangladesh government is doing its best for the safety and security of these temporarily sheltered forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals.

“The relocation is a part of the broader plan of repatriation which is the only priority for the Government of Bangladesh,” said the statement.

At this stage, it is only practical that the international community including the United Nations fulfill their responsibility and meaningfully engage with Myanmar to commence repatriation, which is the only durable solution to this crisis, it said.

 “We would encourage human rights groups to put their efforts in creating a conducive environment inside Myanmar for their quick, safe and dignified repatriation to their land of origin, Myanmar,” said the foreign ministry.

The Bangladesh government has ensured an adequate supply of food along with proper sanitation and medical facilities for Rohingyas in Bhashan Char while proper hospitals with highly qualified health professionals, adequate COVID testing and treatment facilities are in place.

It mentioned that a good number of Rohingya representatives undertook a ‘go and see’ visit to Bhashan Char to see the facilities and make an independent and informed choice.

Besides, a number of NGOs and journalists also visited the island while all of them expressed their high satisfaction at the available facilities in Bhashan Char.

More importantly, the relocation was preceded by adequate preparations and consultations held with different stakeholders.

The foreign ministry said, the government has decided to relocate, in phases, 1,00,000 Rohingyas to Bhashan Char in the face of growing concern over the extreme congestion in the camps of Cox’s Bazar and to avert any risk of death due to landslides and other unwarranted incidents

“Accordingly, in the first phase, more than 1600 Rohingyas, who expressed their willingness voluntarily for relocation, have been shifted to Bhashan Char today (on Friday),” said the statement.

The ministry said the relocation has become imperative to decongest the overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar that have temporarily been accommodating nearly a million of Rohingyas with many more thousands born each year.

The deteriorating security situation due to the prolonged stay of these frustrated people in Cox’s Bazar also compelled the Bangladesh government to come up with a contingency plan and develop Bhashan Char from its own budgetary allocation.

Accordingly, the ministry said the government invested more than USD 350.00 million to develop the 13,000 acres island with all modern amenities, year-round freshwater, beautiful lake and proper infrastructure and enhanced facilities.

These include an uninterrupted supply of electricity and water, agricultural plots, cyclone shelters, two hospitals, four community clinics, mosques, warehouses, telecommunication services, police station, recreation and learning centres, and playgrounds.

In contrast to the makeshift structures of the camps in Cox’s Bazar, the statement said, the accommodation in Bhashan Char is strongly-built with a concrete foundation which can withstand natural disasters such as cyclones and tidal waves.

“Super-cyclone Amphan proved the strength of the structures of Bhashan Char as despite the heightened tidal wave, all the 1440 houses and 120 shelter stations in the island remained unharmed,” it added.

In addition to government agencies, around 22 NGOs are already there to extend all possible support to the relocated Rohingyas.

Adequate security has been ensured on the island by the deployment of police personnel including female police while the area is fully covered with CCTV cameras.

The skill development and livelihood opportunity that the Rohingyas would be able to avail in Bhashan Char would prepare them for their reintegration into the Myanmar society on return.

The types of economic activities such as fishing, agriculture and goat rearing that they used to pursue in Rakhine state is available in Bhashan Char.

 “When the persecuted Rohingyas from Myanmar were fleeing en masse from the violence, persecution and atrocities in the hands of their own people in their own land, it was Bangladesh who, purely out of humanitarian gesture, responded immediately and opened her borders and thus saved nearly a million of precious lives,” said the statement.

The generous people of Bangladesh offered all kinds of assistance to these persecuted Myanmar nationals before any international humanitarian agency stepped in.

“We set another unique example of humanity in the world by developing a modern island to temporarily accommodate some of these persecuted Rohingyas,” said the foreign ministry.

Bangladesh currently hosts over 1.1 million forcibly displaced Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar district and most of them arrived there after August 25, 2017, amid a ruthless crackdown by the Myanmar military at their homeland in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

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