Challenges facing Rohingya repatriation process

Challenges facing Rohingya repatriation process

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Dhaka, Dec 11 – The process to repatriate Rohingyas living in Bangladesh is likely to face ‘serious challenges’ as these displaced Muslims are unwilling to return immediately in absence of any future safeguard for them.A number of Rohingyas who arrived in Bangladesh since August 25 said that they are living comfortably in Bangladesh without any fear and are willing to stay back here.
“I have lost my wife, son, mother, brother, and two sisters. Are you asking me to go back to Myanmar? For whom?” Ramzan Ali, one of the Rohingyas, told UNB explaining his position.
He said if anybody forces him to leave Bangladesh, he will rather ask him to shoot and kill him. “I’ve nothing there. Everything is destroyed,” he said.
The United Nations has laid emphasis on the safe repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh to their homeland without any force.
“People should go back, people or refugees should go back to their homes when they feel it’s safe and nobody should be forced to move,” said Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General.
“I’m not surprised that most of the Rohingya refugees are unwilling to return immediately; presumably the relative security they enjoy in Bangladesh is one factor in their decision while the absence of any future safeguard against persecution is another,” Prof Ali Riaz, an international analyst, told UNB.
He said the inflow of Rohingyas has not completely stopped, which is also an indication that the situation in Myanmar has not changed significantly.
“The issues at the heart of the present crisis, such as the question of citizenship and equal treatment, have not been discussed, let alone resolved,” said Prof Riaz of the Department of Politics and Government at Illinois State University, USA.
He said without any conducive and secure environment, a reliable arrangement for humanitarian support inside Myanmar for the returning refugees, and a path for a long-term solution, Rohingyas will have little incentives to return.
“None of these are part of the bilateral instrument regarding the repatriation signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar. I’m afraid the repatriation process is destined to face serious challenges, even if it starts at all,” Prof Riaz said.
Though Bangladesh has signed a bilateral instrument on the return of Rohingyas, it is seeking sustained pressure on Myanmar to resolve the crisis.
Asked about it, the political analyst said he thinks Bangladesh has “hastily agreed” to a bilateral arrangement, seemingly under the “Chinese insistence”.
He said one of the key weaknesses of the ambiguous arrangement is the absence of any third-party — there is no third-party guarantor, no mediation process.
Prof Riaz said Bangladesh should have intensified its efforts to involve international community and use that as leverage against Myanmar before agreeing to a bilateral arrangement.
“Unfortunately, we can’t go back in time to fix it. Bangladesh must continue its efforts to involve the international community, this is the only protection against Myanmar’s recalcitrant attitude,” he said.
Prof Riaz said the signed instrument, at best, should be treated as a framework, and Bangladesh should work with the international community on the details of the repatriation process before proceeding further with Myanmar.
Asked about the role of the international community, he said their first and foremost responsibility is to provide humanitarian support to the Rohingyas and ensure their safety.
“But, it also needs to remain focused on a solution to the crisis,” Prof Riaz said adding that it can do three things.
First, he said, put pressure on Myanmar for finding a long-term solution; second, make it clear to China that its expedient policy is prolonging the humanitarian crisis and endangering security to the region; and third, convince the Bangladesh government to work with them in charting a course when Bangladesh pursues a bilateral arrangement.
The number of Rohingyas who fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar since August 25 has now risen to 646,000, a big jump from the estimated number of 626,000 last week, says the United Nations. – UNB

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