Special Supplement

Rohingya crisis compounds

Published : 31 Dec 2020 07:33 PM | Updated : 31 Dec 2020 08:23 PM

The Rohingya crisis became more complicated in 2020. There was no progress in the repatriation process in the year 2020 except relocation of a few portions of Rohingyas to modern settlements in Bhasan Char Island. As international communication has been limited due to the pandemic, Bangladesh-Myanmar diplomatic process on Rohingya repatriation has seen no progress. Consequently, the Rohingya genocide trial also has seen no progress in the international court.

Meanwhile, clashes between different groups of Rohingyas have made situation miserable for ordinary Rohingyas in the camps. Due to the pandemic, the donor agencies did not provide funds for the Rohingya as per the demand of the Joint Response Plan.

In December 2020, a total of 3500 Rohingyas were relocated to Bhasan Char settlement in Noakhali from Cox's Bazar camps. 

Despite disagreement from international organizations, including the United Nations, the Rohingyas' willful relocation to Bhasan Char is seen as evidence of their greater buoyancy to the Bangladesh government.

In the latest statement, Bangladesh Foreign ministry said, as we repeatedly mentioned, the problem is created by Myanmar and its solution lies solely with Myanmar. Therefore, instead of mounting undue and unjustified pressure on Bangladesh, the international community including the UN/INGOs/international humanitarian and human rights organizations must focus on the egregious human rights violations that the Rohingyas have been facing for generations in Myanmar,”.

The Rohingya want to return to their homeland- Myanmar and all need to work constructively to that end. Now that the election of Myanmar is over, we look forward to visible engagement of an international community with Myanmar for an urgent and early repatriation of these displaced and persecuted Myanmar nationals to their homeland.

After the second batch of 1,804 Rohingya spent their first night at a housing project on the island in Noakhali’s Hatia following their relocation, the government on Wednesday thanked the civil society and nongovernment organizations that are partnering in the relocation efforts.

The government expects involvement of more organizations to open their operations in Bhasan Char, said the statement from the foreign ministry. The government reiterated its stance on the involvement of the UN in the process and said it is ready to facilitate participation of the UN as per its mandate.

However, the government is dismayed to see the generation of distortion and misinformation surrounding Bhasan Char and the relocation process.

The United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees brought the international community together on October 22 to address the Rohingya crisis. At a virtual conference, they urged countries to increase assistance for Rohingya refugees, host communities, and internally displaced people in Myanmar, more than three years since the latest phase of the crisis began in August 2017.

The UN has appealed for more than $1 billion in aid to meet the humanitarian needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh this year, but so far only half has been contributed. This leaves a significant funding gap, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the Rohingyas in Bangladesh Camps, 373 were corona positive, of whom 10 died. However, due to the dense population, it was feared that the epidemic would spread widely.  In Cox’s Bazar, the preparations for COVID-19 pandemic began months before the first confirmed case in the country. World Health Organization, together with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner office (RRRC) provided collaborative support to all health partners and sectors to prepare for COVID-19. 

The strategy in Cox’s Bazar focused on reducing the chances of transmission as much as possible to contain first infections both in the host and refugee communities. That rapid initial intervention allowed health sector partners precious time to prepare their teams, coordinate with each other, and provide capacity building to all health care workers in Cox’s Bazar.

ICC and ICJ  trial

Pre-Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court  authorized the Prosecutor to proceed with an investigation for the alleged crimes within the ICC's jurisdiction in the Situation in the People's Republic of Bangladesh/Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

ICC Pre-Trial Chamber III is composed of Judge Olga Herrera Carbuccia, Presiding, Judge Robert Freer, and Judge Geoffrey Henderson.

This authorization follows the request submitted on 4 July 2019 by the Prosecutor to open an investigation into alleged crimes within the ICC's jurisdiction committed against the Rohingya people from Myanmar.

The Chamber also received the views on this request by or on behalf of hundreds of thousands of alleged victims. The Chamber recognized all the individuals and organizations that assisted, guided, and advised alleged victims throughout this process.

The ICC also offers to hear the allegation in Bangladesh but the government did not except.

The Chamber concluded that the Court may exercise jurisdiction over crimes when part of the criminal conduct takes place on the territory of a State Party. While Myanmar is not a State Party, Bangladesh ratified the ICC Rome statute in 2010.

The party has announced that it would be inviting ethnic minority parties to work with it.

In January 2020, International Court of Justice ICJ has also issued an interim instruction to Myanmar to ensure the safety and security of Rohingyas so that they can live in Rakhain with dignity. ICJ also seeks a follow-up report from Myanmar Government about what initiatives were taken basis on five-point instructions. But Myanmar authority did not submit any reports to ICJ. A final ICJ order is very much expected by Rohingyas in the coming month.   

Violence, trafficking, and the drug trade

Dozens of Rohingyas were killed in the clashes but only a few was reported. Rohingyas living in Bhasan Char said that they came to this island settlement as law and order in camps is worsening day by day.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in March, many Rohingyas were stranded at sea for weeks.  Bangladesh Navy and Coast Guard rescued and shifted the floating Rohingyas to Island settlement Bhasan Char.

After Rohingya Influx in 2017, the trend of Yaba trade in the south-eastern border of Bangladesh takes a different turn. Before the influx, both Refugees and the hoist community were engaged in trafficking drug from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Following a crackdown by law enforcers, the locals move away from the yaba business. The Rohingyas have occupied this void. Currently, the yaba business is completely controlled by the Rohingyas in camps.   


Saleh Noman works with Bangladesh Post