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Thursday, November 30, 2017 10:04:06 PM
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Remote island can`t solve Rohingya problem

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THE government should abandon all plans to relocate more than 100,000 Rohingya refugees on an uninhabitable island in the Bay of Bengal and increase pressure on Myanmar to take back its nationals so that such relocation is not required. Amnesty International voiced concern on Tuesday as the government approved a $280 million plan to develop the isolated island -- Thenger which is flood-prone and Uninhabitable.

The island emerged into view only 11 years ago. During monsoon, it is highly vulnerable to tidal surge and storm. The human rights organization has warned of the dangers to the Rohingyas if they are relocated to what is widely considered as an uninhabitable place - that takes at least two hours to reach from the nearest settlement. It is not only inhabitable but also make it harder for humanitarian assistance to reach the refugees.
Last week, the Bangladesh government signed a deal with the Myanmar government to repatriate the more than 700,000 refugees who fled ethnic cleansing, such as rape murder and the burning down of their entire villages in northern Rakhine State during military attacks in October 2016 and August 2017. Amnesty International recently published a detailed analysis into the root causes of the plight of the Rohingya, establishing that they have been trapped in a vicious system of state-sponsored, institutionalized discrimination that amounts to apartheid.

It appears that our nation is caught between a rock and a hard place. While it is extraordinarily difficult to find proper shelters for almost 700,000 Rohingya it is also true that we are one of the most densely populated nations on the planet. We have real problems with giving out land for shelter.

However that fact pales when we plan to shelter them in a far away island where life will be difficult in all sense. Understandably our government is worried about their presence with the local population causing local tension in the first place and ultimately they may not return to Myanmar. But if we treat them like the Myanmar government putting them in inhabitable camps - then what makes the difference? One major flood would destroy the char where they are supposed to be relocated to - this should not be the way the Rohingyas are treated.

We have managed to sign a deal which does not even have a stipulated ending time within which all Rohingya should go back. The process is entirely at the mercy of the Myanmar government. It could take as much as seven years for them to properly vet 700,000 plus people, even if Myanmar government agrees to what is not foreseeable.  Should they stay in a remote char for that period of time - it could very well end up being a breeding ground for sectarian tensions and violence? Far better is to keep them where they are; and insist our regional allies to put pressure on Myanmar to expedite the repatriation.  

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