Covid-19 and humanity

Myanmar should start repatriating Rohingyas immediately

(Continued from last day’s section)

If we look at the geo-structural situation of Bangladesh, we find that Bangladesh is an extremely overpopulated country having a total population of 165 million people living in a small tiny land of 147,570 sq km, with an abnormal density of 1,116 people living per square kilometer facing a daunting challenge for its own survival in terms of its per capita land, and resource allocation. 

It does not have any place for providing shelter to and accommodate such a big number of Rohingyas  for years together and since Myanmar had always been trying to bluff the world community saying that they have all sincerity to take the Rohyengyas back to their own land, why then not we ask them at this time, as a sign of ‘first good gesture’, to accept these Rohingyas  floating on the Bay of Bengal. 

In fact, it may be the beginning of acceptable repatriation for their return to their homeland as our Foreign Minister, Mr. AK Abdul Momen this time, clearly declined to provide any entry to any more Rohingyas  as Bangladesh is already overburdened with more than one million refugees. 

In the mean time, simultaneously, many more migrant workers have also started returning to Bangladesh due to COVID-19 pandemic throughout the world. While responding to Britain’s request for providing shelter to the floated Rohingyas, Momen categorically mentioned that Bangladesh had already allowed 1.1 million Rohingyas  to stay here temporarily on humanitarian grounds despite being a developing country with limited resources. 

He also mentioned that five hundred Rohingyas are quite a small number in comparison to that what Bangladesh had already sheltered and being dissatisfied to Britain’s proposal, he rather insinuated Britain to provide them shelter or ask any other countries including  Myanmar to accept them which seems to us mathematically logical.   

It is inconceivable to suspect that whether the United Nations and Human Rights Watch are at all sincere in understanding the burdensome demographic and economic pressures of Bangladesh. Instead, they rather, most frequently put pressure on Bangladesh to be more considerate in accepting the Rohingyas  where Bangladesh Prime Minister being the ‘Mother of Humanity’ had already offered them protection and had rescued the Rohingyas  from Myanmar’s military aggression. 

The place where the Rohingyas  are now staying in Cox’s Bazar has become very densed and torment for which the local people have now become very sensitive about the Rohingyas  since they are simply  wiping out the locals from their own settlement as well as they are capturing the economic and employment structure of the country. 

Accordingly for that reason, Bangladesh Government wanted to relocate them in Bhasanchor which deceitfully was protested by many Western activists with a sentient argument that the place is still uninhabitable. 

Recently, Human Rights Watch reported that 29 floated new arrivals from Myanmar who had been adrift at the sea for over two months are quarantined at Bhasanchor as it becomes quite risky to bring them to Cox’s Bazar as a few corona infectors from those camps are already taken in the medical care. 

While the recent cyclone Amphan, had killed many lives and demolished thousands of houses in the coastal districts of Bangladesh however, did not do any harm to Bhasanchar proving that it is fully safe for Rohingyas. Dislike of shifting the Rohingyas  from our mainland is simply a baffling attitude and Bangladesh deserves a pressurised international solution to this issue. 

We fully endorse the viewpoint of our Foreign Minister, Mr. AKM Momen when he clearly mentioned that he believes the resistance is simply due to the inconveniences of the aid agencies visiting and staying at Bhasachar where there are no comfortable four and five star-rated hotels as found in Cox’s Bazar. 

In refreshing the memories, many of them should repent that once being colonial powers, they are the real originators of this catastrophic geo-political metamorphosis where they mischievously gave this land of Arakanese to the Burmese authority. 

Under no way, Bangladesh should have any muffling voice and our Foreign Minister unhesitatingly reminded the Western world that if they are so sympathetic about the Rohingyas , why do they not pressurise Myanmar very seriously entrancing their safe return within twenty four hours? While briefing on COVID-19 situation through a videoconference with the Ambassadors of Denmark, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the European Union delegations in Dhaka, Foreign Minister Momen urged them to share the burden of Rohingya  and providing them a better life and thus suggested finding out some spaces in their own countries or to arrange sending them back to Myanmar.

Is there any country in the world that will show such magnanimity allowing such a huge number of refugees to stay in their country for an indefinite period of time having its own insurmountable demographic pressure? Any problem arising in the Andaman Sea or to the Indian Ocean relating to Rohingyas , international powers instantly become tricky to convince Bangladesh to accept them with an understanding that since Bangladesh had sheltered 1.1 million of them, they should again accept the additional numbers as well. 

Momen emphatically mentioned that it is not simply our problem; others also have a responsibility towards Rohingya.  Being sympathetic, 306 stranded Rohingyas again were rescued by Bangladesh from the sea and the Government had already sent them to Bhashan Char. 

The strains of the Rohingyas  at Cox’s Bazar are further worsened by their cramped living and recent detection of a few COVID-19 infectors has become very alarming for such a congested place; in fact, it threatens the whole country. Information indicates that thousands of older people living in those camps are suffering from hypertension, diabetics and cardiovascular diseases which are further exacerbated due to congested and stiff living.   

Bangladesh requires a huge amount of money to feed such a big number of migrants and providing them with medical supports and more specifically it is reported that the percentage of economic assistance is also decreasing day by day as the main donors for them are still the United States, United Kingdom and Japan who are predicting tremendous challenges to rebuild their own countries during and after the post-corona situation. 

Many big powers in Asia often tactfully and diplomatically remain silent about Rohingya  issue because of having their own geo-political interest on Myanmar. Since the Muslim countries in Middle East are always engaged in self-squabbling among each other have little interest on the Rohyngas or any other poorer communities of the world. 

Malaysia and Turkey deserve the appreciation in this context, as they spoke in favor of Rohingya  issue on several occasions. 

In addition to providing funds, we now urge many countries of the world to find shelter for the Rohingyas ; more specifically to say that, we immediately require providing them settlement and permanent place to stay. 

And contextually, repatriation is the only solution which should be started immediately before they severely affected by corona pandemic. Whatever may be the situation, we would suggest Bangladesh Government to be more assertive in persuading the international sentiments solving the problem immediately without lingering it any more. 

Instead of prolonging the issue, we have to adopt policies to solve the problems especially at this COVID-19 pandemic situation. The Foreign Ministry has to move faster and be adamant in sending back the Rohingyas  as soon as possible and in no way to allow any further intrusion of them as it aggravates our socio-structural situation of the country. 

Our Honorable Prime Minister has farsightedness and we have all confidence on her; yet, we suggest her to move around the world securing support from all the big powers including China and India convincing them to make the repatriation as swiftly as possible.  

We suggest that the Foreign Ministry forms a committee inclusive of a few university teachers and policy planners more specifically from the disciplines of History and Anthropology confidently to narrate the situation to the world community and thus save the humanity.   


Professor AHM Zehadul Karim teaches anthropology at Jagannath University.