Rohingyas want dignity, identity: WB Vice President
Refugees are among the most vulnerable people in the world. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina herself was refugee twice; first during our liberation war in 1971; when her father, the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested and taken to Pakistan. She along with her mother, sister and brother was confined in a house.
Second time, in 1975 when her father along with 18 members, including her mother, three brothers, the youngest one of 10 year-old, two sister in laws, and uncle, was brutally assassinated on 15 August in 1975. Prime Minister Hasina and her younger sister had to take refuge abroad for six years till 1981.
Now in Bangladesh, we are faced with the largest forced movement in shortest time of over 1.1 million traumatized Rohingyas. They have been forcibly displaced from their homes in Rakhine State of Myanmar where they had been living for centuries.
While Bangladesh is providing them with basic necessities, the magnitude of the problem has posed serious challenges for Bangladesh. Bangladesh has allocated over 6000 acres of land. Diversion of human and other resources for Rohingyas has taken toll on Bnagladesh society, environment and economy.
The international partners, especially the UN agencies, have been helping the Rohingyas. Regrettably the current UN joint response plan of 2018 which requires USD 950 million has remained severely underfunded with only 33 percent funding secured. Humanitarian and development support of the international community for the Rohingyas and other affected communities must be predictable and in the spirit of international responsibility sharing.
As expected, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina September 24 placed three recommendations, including abolishing discriminatory laws, policies and practices by Myanmar against Rohingyas, to solve the protracted Rohingya crisis from its root.
She placed the recommendations at the ‘High-level Event on the Global Compact on Refugees: A Model for Greater Solidarity and Cooperation’ held at the UN headquarters here with UN Secretary General António Guterres in the chair.
Her second recommendation is Myanmar must create conducive environment by building trust and guaranteeing protection, rights and pathway to citizenship for all Rohingyas. If needed, create a ‘safe zone’ inside Myanmar to protect all civilians.
Hasina’s third recommendation is to prevent atrocious crimes against Rohingyas in Myanmar by bringing accountability and justice, particularly in light of the recommendations of the Fact-Finding Mission of the UN Human Rights Council.
“In Bangladesh, now we’re faced with the largest forced movement of over 1.1 million traumatised Rohingyasat the shortest time. They’ve been forcibly displaced from their homes in Rakhine State of Myanmar where they had been living for centuries,” she told her audience.
The Prime Minister went on saying, “While we’re providing them with basic necessities, the magnitude of the problem has posed serious challenges for us. We’ve allocated over 6,000 acres of land.”
Hasina, however, said the diversion of human and other resources for Rohingyas has taken a toll on the environment, economy and society.
She mentioned that the international partners, especially the UN agencies, have been helping the Rohingyas.
“Regrettably, the current UN joint response plan of 2018 which requires USD 950 million has remained severely underfunded with only 33 percent funding secure. Humanitarian and development support of the international community for the Rohingyas and other affected communities must be predictable and in the spirit of international responsibility sharing,” the PM said.
Hasina reiterated that the Rohingya crisis has originated in Myanmar and the solution has to be found there. “As a responsible government, we’ve opened our border and provided shelter to the forcibly displaced Rohingyas. By doing so, we’ve not only saved lives, but also stabilised the entire region by containing the crisis within our border.”
She said Bangladesh would like to see the Rohingyas returning to the homes in safety, security and dignity. “Pending their return, we are trying to address their basic needs.”
Given the scarcity of land and other socio-cultural and environmental impacts, Hasina said they were going to relocate them to a newly developed island, Bhashan Char, where they will have better living conditions and livelihood opportunities.
In the absence of any policy of local integration in Bangladesh, she said, Rohingyas need to secure their future in their own country Myanmar.
The Prime Minister urged international community to help Bangladesh achieve that.
Hasina said the ‘Compact on Refugees’ has been adopted at a time when the world is faced with swelling refugee crisis. Innocent people from the various conflict-torn countries are leaving their homes for safety and security while many countries like Bangladesh are giving them shelter, protection and hope.
She mentioned that most of these refugee-hosting countries are developing countries with their own set of challenges. “Yet, they respond to the call of humanity.”
The world must recognize their contributions and help those countries shoulder the burden. The world leaders must come forward with political will and commitment, she added.
The Prime Minister said the world must not forget that every refugee desires a safe return to his or her homeland. The displaced people from Myanmar have to return to their homes in safety, security and dignity.
“Safe and sustainable return to the country of origin is particularly important to resolve protracted refugee crisis. Greater attention needs to be paid to remove the root causes that drive people refugee, and those root causes lie in the countries of origin,” she said.
The Prime Minister said the realisation of the Compact should exhibit stronger commitment towards addressing those root causes; rather than focusing on response to an emerging situation only.
‘What I’ve seen over the day is a human tragedy’
World Bank Vice President for South Asia Region Hartwig Schafer has said Rohingyas, living in Cox’s Bazar camps, want an identity and dignity saying he has seen a human tragedy over there.
“What I’ve seen over the day is human tragedy,” Schafer who visited Rohingya camps on Monday and Tuesday said in a message from Kutupalong camp, the largest refugee camp in the world.
He said Bangladesh opened border to the Rohingyas who came here with nothing and fled homes across the border.
“They want dignity. They want an identity. They’re enormously resilient. They’ve started small businesses,” said the WB Vice President in a video message.
Schafer said Rohingyas want to send their children school to get good education and they want to make sure they get good healthcare. “I would hope there’s a brighter future for those people.”
The WB Vice President thanked the people of Bangladesh and the government for sheltering Rohingyas.
He said the World Bank has made available over US$ 480 million to support Bangladesh to help them with the cost of serving these people.
Despite its own challenges, Bangladesh has shown great generosity by sheltering nearly one million Rohingya people, said the WB Vice President in an earlier message.
“The World Bank is working closely with the government to help address the needs of the Rohingya until their safe return to Myanmar and help build the country’s capacity to deal with the crisis.”
It has approved the first two operations—totalling about $75 million in grants—to provide health services and education to the Rohingya, many of whom are children, youths or women.
“Bangladesh has a remarkable story of cutting extreme poverty to half in record time. Other countries can learn from Bangladesh’s many development innovations and successes. I look forward to meeting our partners and seeing firsthand the country’s journey to economic growth,” said Schafer.