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Rohingya refugees live miserably in cold: UN representative must act fast

By Editorial Desk
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The Rohingya crisis has taken a critical turn as repatriation of refugees, which was scheduled to start by January 22, is likely to be halted due to reluctant mood of both Bangladesh and Myanmar. As per an agreement, signed between Dhaka and Naypyidaw on November 23, the repatriation process was fixed to begin in 60 days. But the joint working group [JWG] tasked with the process has not yet held its first meeting.

Commissioner for Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Mohammad Abul Kalam on Monday told media that it needs more time for repatriation. 'It is not possible to do everything within a stipulated time frame. So, I think it is unlikely that we can start the repatriation by January 22,' he said. A nine-member technical committee, formed to collect data about Rohingyas, could not start work as the government departments have yet to send their representatives' names, he said.

The 30-member JWG, however, will meet on January 15 in Myanmar. And strangely, the UNHCR has not yet been informed, the media reports said. In this context, the human rights groups have cautioned saying that 'confusion and lack of communication' will not bring any good for a repatriation process.

The delay was announced at a time when more Rohingya refugees continued to straggle across the border into Bangladesh. Besides, ARSA [Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army] said it had carried out an attack on Friday    
to retaliate for Myanmar's atrocities. The Rohingyas, entered Bangladesh after August 25, have brought with them bloody accounts of what appears to be state-sponsored genocide. Apart from burning three Rakhine townships - Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung -- the Myanmar military also targeted Rakhine capital Sittwe, which forced an exodus of Rohingyas across the 271-km border with Bangladesh. Day by day the situation is deteriorating.

Presently, the Rohingya refugees are passing their days in miseries in Cox's Bazar, where prevailing cold has made their lives difficult due to lack of warm clothes. The cold wind has also increased the risk of diseases such as pneumonia, cough and fever, especially among the children and elderly people. Local and foreign doctors are now fighting to save lives from a rapid and deadly outbreak of diphtheria in the camps.

Undoubtedly, the current crisis is a big challenge to the government as about 1.2 million Rohingyas are sheltering in Bangladesh. So, the government must not overlook the negligence of its officials concerned who failed to send their representatives' names for the technical committee. At the same time, the Foreign Ministry will also have to take responsibility for the unprecedented delay of repatriation. 

No country must be allowed to disown its people living for ages as outsiders and forced them to live so. The crime committed by Myanmar army is international and international community cannot ignore the urgency of its responsibility.

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