National, Front Page

Four years of Rohingya influx

Repatriation still uncertain

Published : 24 Aug 2021 10:25 PM

On this day (August 25) in 2016, thousands of Rohingyas crossed the border and took refuge in Ukhia and Teknaf upazilas of Cox's Bazar after facing massive persecution by the Myanmar army. 

In less than three months over 7.5 lakh crossed into Bangladesh totaling more than 11 lakh now living in 34 camps in Cox's Bazar, including 3.5 lakh Rohingyas who had earlier, since 1992, sought refuge in Cox's Bazar. There is no guarantee when will they return. 

Bilateral talks on Rohingya repatriation with Myanmar have stalled for various reasons. A section of the Rohingyas are said to be involved in various crimes. Meanwhile, about 19,000 Rohingyas have been shifted and accommodated in a newly built modern shelter developed under a project in Bhasanchar. 

The Rohingyas are also worried about whether they will be able to return to their homeland Myanmar at all with the guarantee of citizenship, security and freedom of movement. About 1 lakh children have been born here since they arrived.

When the Myanmar army started mass killing against the Rohingyas started coming to Ukhia and Teknaf in Cox's Bazar to save their lives by crossing the border from August 25, 2016. Within two to three months after August 25, about seven and a half lakh Rohingyas took refuge here. 

More than 11 lakh Rohingyas, including three and a half lakh Rohingyas who had already taken shelter in Cox's Bazar, were given shelter in 34 camps. Subsequently, food assistance and other facilities for the Rohingya people were ensured under the auspices of the United Nations. 

In 2016, Bangladesh started bilateral talks with Myanmar to repatriate Rohingyas and despite two initiatives to repatriate Rohingyas, not a single Rohingya returned to Myanmar. Their main demands are to recognize their ethnicity as Rohingya, to grant them citizenship, to return them to their homeland and to allow them to move freely, and to return to their homeland, Myanmar. 

Rahima Khatun, Abul Kashem and Rahim Ullah, residents of Kutupalang Mega camp in Ukhia, said, “Torture is still going on in Myanmar. I will go back when I get all our rights, safety and security.”

Abdu Salam, a resident of the Balukhali camp in Ukhia, said, “If it were not for the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, we might not have survived so long. So, we are all grateful to Sheikh Hasina.”

The international community, including the United Nations, is highly concerned about the Rohingya issue raising their voices. 

The trial of Rohingya genocide is also going on in the International Court of Justice. On top of that, Bangladesh's bilateral talks on the repatriation of Rohingya are facing uncertainty due to the military's takeover of power in Myanmar. 

In addition to the world-wide corona situation, the Rohingyas are not sure when the repatriation will start in the conflict situation with various rebel groups in Myanmar's Rakhine state. However, Rohingya community leaders said they would return to their homeland only if their ethnic identity and rights were restored. 

Mohammad Jubayer, secretary of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace Human Rights, said, “It is not up to us to see which government is in Myanmar now. We will definitely leave if we get everything including settlement, land, rights and of course, safety and security.”

Mohammad Selim, a boatman from Kutupalong camp G Block said, “We are always ready to return to our country. We did not come to stay in this country. I escaped to save my life.”

Ed Tareq, adviser to the Rohingya Prevention Committee, said, “The Rohingya repatriation had failed due to lack of proper initiatives and the long-term presence of Rohingyas was disrupting peace and order. Repatriation of Rohingyas is our only goal. Let us liberate our land by sending them to their own country.”

Meanwhile, it is alleged that many of the Rohingyas are involved in various crimes including murder, kidnapping and drug trafficking.

Cox's Bazar Superintendent of Police Hasanuzzaman said, “Police are working to curb Rohingya crime. At present, crime has been decreasing day by day due to the Strick measures. 

However, so far 1,014 cases have been registered against them. There are 1622 arrests out of 26 accused. Besides, police report has been submitted after investigation of 694 cases. According to the police, 47% of these cases are drug cases.

Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Shah Rezwan Hayat said, "We always have a vision to ensure that those who have taken refuge here are always well." We are also telling them to be ready to return to their country. 

We are also sending those who are interested to go to Bhasanchar. At present, 19,000 Rohingyas from 4,600 families are living in the modern shelter. The Commissioner for Refugee Relief and Repatriation said that about 1 lakh Rohingya children have been born here. Now they have become interested in adopting birth control methods in the camps. We are working on this issue. Work is also underway to vaccinate the elderly in the camp.

Cox's Bazar Deputy Commissioner Md Mamunur Rashid said the Bangladesh government was working with the international community on Rohingya repatriation. The government is working to repatriate the Abs people who have taken refuge in our country.

The Rohingyas, who have been sheltered for humanitarian reasons, have been staying for a long time and the peace and order in Cox's Bazar is being disrupted. The humanity of the people of Cox's Bazar has become questionable. 

The Rohingyas are spreading across the Bangladesh in many ways and have been known to be committing crimes violent. Therefore, the concerned people are emphasizing on the need to draw the attention of the international community to send them back to their homeland as soon as possible.