Repatriation is the only solution, not integration: Bangladesh

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Photo: UNB

Refugee Policy Review done by UNHCR, says WB

The government has taken a very strong stance against the idea floated by the World Bank and the UNHCR that apparently suggests the integration of Rohingyas into Bangladesh as Bangladesh’s priority remains repatriation of Rohingyas to their homeland.

“We took a very strong stance. We didn’t like it and we opposed it strongly. We conveyed it,” Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told Dhaka Courier.

The World Bank came up with a programme as part of its Refugee Policy Review Framework globally for refugee host countries through the Economic Relations Division (ERD).

“Rohingyas are not refugees here. They’re persecuted and displaced people. They’re taking shelter temporarily,” Dr Momen said, adding that Bangladesh wants the repatriation of Rohingyas to their place of origin in Myanmar.

Asked about the WB’s proposed programme, the Foreign Minister said the WB is saying effective steps should be taken to identify, prevent and mitigate social tensions and risk of violence among the displaced people and host communities, building good relations among themselves,  and to employ them in local works.

He said they (WB) are saying Rohingyas should have the right to work and free mobility; and birth, marriage, divorce and death certificates should be issued for the Rohingyas like Bangladesh citizens. “Naturally, we don’t accept those ideas. They (WB) are willing to give money for these if we integrate them.”

As per the WB ideas shared with the ERD, the Rohingyas should have access to the local labour market, including business opportunities, the same way Bangladesh nationals have with the same payment facilities.

About education for Rohingyas, there is a proposal to provide education in Bangla language so that they can be absorbed in the local market. However, Bangladesh wants education for Rohingyas in Myanmar language.

“Their (WB) programme is fully related to integration of these people with the host country. Naturally, we don’t want it,” Dr Momen said.

Bangladesh’s observation has also been shared with the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. “We told them (UNHCR) that these are irreverent.”

Bangladesh says it does not buy these ideas even though they want to tag these with their operational activities in Bhasan Char. “No, we can’t meet these proposals, we don’t buy this. We want them to go back to Myanmar,” Dr Momen said.

The World Bank is now in discussion with host countries, including Bangladesh, with its Refugee Policy Review Framework.

Bangladesh does not want anything that might lead to the possibility of Rohingyas’ presence in Bangladesh for a longer period with an opportunity to live with locals in a more integrated way having the freedom of mobility. Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasan Char.

Dr Momen said there might be some adjustments with the World Bank proposal with Bangladesh giving its priority to repatriation of the Rohingyas.

"We’ve dropped all ideas (from WB proposal) that don't match with our own philosophy that's repatriation," said Dr Momen, adding that there will be an MoU if the WB agrees with the Bangladesh proposal.

"Rohingyas are not refugees here. …they’re taking shelter here on a temporary basis," Dr Momen said.

On August 3, the World Bank said the Refugee Policy Review was done by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) following the Refugee Policy Review Framework.

UNHCR collected baseline information on the existing policies, practices, and programmes, said the global lending agency in a statement posted on its website. The WB said the review does not make any country-specific recommendations.

The World Bank is helping Bangladesh address the needs of the displaced Rohingya population until their safe and voluntary return to Myanmar, said the statement.

The World Bank is also supporting Bangladesh to minimize the impact of the influx on the host communities, it said.

The World Bank has committed $590 million for Bangladesh to address the health, informal education, safety net, water and sanitation, and basic infrastructure, including climate resilient roads, solar street lights, and disaster preparedness needs of both the displaced Rohingya and host communities in Cox’s Bazar.

The World Bank’s research and analysis are also providing insights for understanding the challenges and development priorities in Cox’s Bazar. "The entire $590 million financing is on grant terms. This is not a credit," reads the statement.

The Refugee Policy Review aims to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the World Bank financing for the refugee and host communities, said the WB.

This review has been done in each of the 14 World Bank member countries that are currently hosting the displaced population.

Dr Momen said they might face some kind of pressure from the WB in terms of getting other loans but will remain stick to its position giving Rohingya repatriation a priority.

He indicated that the UNHCR may also refer to it as a condition to go to Bhasan Char for resuming their operational activities.

On education for Rohingyas, there is a proposal to provide education in Bangla language so that they can be absorbed in the local market. However, Bangladesh wants education for Rohingyas in Myanmar language.

“Their (WB) programme is fully related to reintegration of these people with the host country. Naturally, we don’t want it,” Dr Momen said.

  • not integration
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  • United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
  • Bangladesh
  • Rohingya

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