Rohingyas get some relief
Faced with various threats the Rohingyas have been screaming for help for long now. Now their prayers seem to have found an answer as a major relief for the community has come in the form of a memorandum of understanding between the United Nations and the government of Bangladesh who have decided to work together in aiding protection and management of Rohingya refugees on an island in the Bay of Bengal where thousands of them have been relocated from crammed camps near the border with Myanmar.
More than 19,000 out of the 1.1 million Rohingya refugees in Southern Bangladesh have already been moved to the Bhasan Char Island by the government, and the UN said one of the key reasons to sign the memorandum was to start serving that population. The government had earlier said that it has a plan to relocate 100,000 refugees to the island in phases from the camps in Cox’s Bazar district.
The new agreement came as a paradigm shift as the UN and other humanitarian groups had criticized the relocation saying the 30-year-old island in the country’s Noakhali district was not fit for habitation. But the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been insisting that the island was developed by spending more than USD 112 million, and it was no more a vulnerable area, which used to be regularly submerged by monsoon rains. The island has now sea walls, hospitals, schools and mosques.
After Saturday’s agreement, authorities said another 81,000 refugees would be relocated to the island over next three months. Despite vehement protest by the UN, a team of the international body visited the island in March when the UN started changing its mind.
The agreement between UN and Bangladesh allows for close cooperation between the government and the UN on services and activities to the benefit of the increasing numbers of Rohingya refugees living on the island.
More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh since August 2017, when the military in Buddhist-majority Myanmar began a harsh crackdown on the Muslim ethnic group following an attack by insurgents. They joined hundreds of thousands of others who have fled to Bangladesh over decades.
Bangladesh attempted to start sending refugees back to Myanmar under a bilateral framework in recent years, but no one was willing to go. The Bangladesh government had then infirmed the UN and other international partners that the administration would not force any refugees to return to Myanmar, but urged them to put pressure on Myanmar for creating a safe environment to facilitate their voluntary return.
The Rohingya are not recognised as citizens in Myanmar, rendering them stateless, and face other forms of state-sanctioned discrimination.
A UN-sponsored investigation in 2018 recommended the prosecution of Myanmar’s top military commanders on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for the violence against the Rohingyas.