Myanmar fails to ensure safe conditions for return Pressure mounts on Bangladesh25 August 2020
This file photo shows waves of Rohingyas fleeing on foot to Bangladesh in an unprecedented exodus following a deadly military crackdown in their homeland in Myanmar in 2017.
Staff Reporter :
Today is the third anniversary of the Rohingyas' influx. Even after three years, the hope for returning home and getting justice appears blurry, uncertain.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a statement on Monday said, Myanmar has failed to address the root causes of widespread abuse against Rohingyas and has refused to create the necessary conditions for their safe, dignified, and voluntary return on the eve of three years completion of the Rohingya influx.
On the other hand, Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen on Monday in a programme said, Bangladesh wants to start the initial transfer of Rohingyas to Bhasan Char Island after monsoon through conducting a "go-and-see" visit programme first.
The Foreign Secretary was addressing a webinar titled "The Rohingya Crisis: Western, Asian, and Bilateral Perspectives" organised by the Center for Peace Studies (CPS) of South Asian Institute of Policy and Governance (SIPG), North South University, Bangladesh in partnership with the High Commission of Canada to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh rejects any notion of local integration of the Rohingyas and is committed to ensuring their repatriation to Myanmar, Masud Bin Momen added.
He says, considering the Covid-19 situation and conflicts in Rakhine, it seems Myanmar is making the Rohingya return difficult.
He also said Bangladesh is not allowing any third country resettlement of the Rohingyas on a basis where a country will take only a few members of the community.
However, he said, it can be considered if some countries work under a joint plan to settle nearly half a million Rohingyas to their countries. The foreign secretary sought global cooperation in solving the Rohingya crisis that seems to be protracted.
Refugees who have spoken to the global rights watchdog overwhelmingly express a desire to return to their homes in Myanmar once it is safe; when they have citizenship and freedom of movement; and when there is genuine accountability for atrocities.
"We deeply want to go back to our country and check on our land and our animals, but it is impossible since we can't find justice," said Sheru Hatu, a refugee.
"We witnessed thousands of people being killed. Bodies were floating in the river in Tula Toli, but no justice has been done," said another Rohingya, Abdul Hamid.
In September 2019, the UN-backed International Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar found that the 600,000 Rohingyas remaining in Myanmar "may face a greater threat of genocide than ever."
Rohingya in Rakhine State are trapped in appalling conditions, confined to camps and villages without freedom of movement, and cut off from access to housing, food, medical care, education, and livelihoods, HRW said.
They are unjustly denied citizenship under Myanmar's 1982 Citizenship Law, leaving them stateless and highly vulnerable to ongoing abuse.
In January, the International Court of Justice unanimously ruled that Myanmar is legally bound to protect Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State from genocide, and to take steps to preserve evidence of crimes. However, the Myanmar government has failed to take any concrete actions to comply with the court order, it said.
The statement said that to demonstrate compliance with the order and readiness for Rohingya to return, the Myanmar government should amend the citizenship law in line with international standards.
It demands that the authorities should immediately lift restrictions on freedom of movement, repeal discriminatory regulations and local orders, and cease all official and unofficial practices that restrict their movement and livelihoods, such as arbitrary roadblocks and extortion systems.
The government has placed restrictions on mobile internet communications across eight townships in Rakhine State, and one in neighboring Chin State, making delivery of humanitarian aid even more difficult and depriving civilians of information.
Also, the government has not granted UN agencies and humanitarian groups unrestricted and sustained access to Rakhine State, heightening the burdens on ethnic populations in need.
The Bangladesh government has organised several official repatriation attempts that have failed because refugees have been unwilling to return, saying they feared persecution and abuse in Myanmar. The UN refugee agency has said that conditions in Rakhine State are not yet conducive to voluntary, safe, and dignified return of the Rohingya.
The New York-based right watchdog said Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have faced tightened restrictions on rights to information, movement, access to education, and health, and have been unlawfully killed by Bangladeshi security forces. On August 25, 2017, the Myanmar military began a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims involving mass killing, rape, and arson that forced some 750,000 to flee, most to neighboring Bangladesh.
It said Myanmar has not complied with these international justice measures issued by the International Court of Justice, has not permitted the United Nations to investigate grave crimes inside the country, nor conducted credible criminal investigations of its own into military atrocities.
"Myanmar's government should recognise that the terrible suffering has caused the Rohingya won't disappear even amid a global pandemic," said Brad Adams, Asia director.
"Myanmar needs to accept an international solution that provides for the safe, voluntary return of Rohingya refugees, while an understandably stretched Bangladesh should not make conditions inhospitable for refugees who have nowhere to go." Ensure peaceful co-existence with Rohingya till repatriation: CCNF
Cox's Bazar CSO NGO Forum (CCNF) on Monday called for peaceful co-existence with the Rohingyas until their dignified repatriation to Myanmar can begin.
Issuing a statement on the eve of the 3rd year of the Rohingya influx, the forum said the political processes for the dignified repatriation of the Myanmar nationals who fled persecution should be prioritised.
Before their successful repatriation, the authorities concerned should facilitate "localisation" of the refugees and ensure transparency in aid management, said the forum, a network of 50 local and national NGOs working in Cox's Bazar. CCNF reiterated its demands for all-out efforts from the United Nations, international NGOs, and the government to expedite the process of dignified repatriation of the Rohingyas.
If the repatriation of 1.1 million Rohingya refugees start tomorrow, it will take over one decade, said the forum.
"So, they should not be kept sitting idle, they should be given pre-fabricated shelter, education and income-generation training to facilitate their human dignity," it added.
In its 11-point demands, CCNF said there should be a government-led "single line and single pot" fund management, while UN agencies should act as a counterpart to government management, not in parallel.
All sub-offices of international agencies should be shifted to Dhaka or Ukhiya to reduce the cost of journeys to camps and to reduce pressure on Cox's Bazar town, the forum said.
It said humanitarian workers should be given 24 hour access to refugee camps so that they can initiate activities against drug dealing, human trafficking, gender violence, and extremism in the camps after dark.
There should be aid transparency and public monitoring on management cost as well as direct input cost to refugees and host communities, it added.
Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, Executive Director of COAST and a Co-Chair of CCNF, said local NGOs, community organisations and local government authorities in Cox's Bazar are committed to uphold the dignity and rights of the Rohingya until their repatriation.
He said the local NGOs and local government organisations have to be given space in response management.