Skip to main content

Uncertainty around Rohingiyas, Bangladesh's 9 lakh forcefully displaced Myanmar nationals

By Sufian Asif* 

Worldwide refugee crises have taken center stage in the news in recent years. According to the UNHCR report, there are currently 110 million refugees worldwide, compared to 100 million in 2022. The report also said that the number of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) worldwide remained stable at 40 million for two decades until 2011, but this number has almost tripled due to the Syrian crisis in 2011 and various events in recent years. The re-establishment of Taliban rule in Afghanistan in 2021, the war in Ukraine in 2022, and finally the civil war in Sudan on April 15 this year have exacerbated the refugee crisis.
A refugee is a person or persons who have sought refuge from their own country to a neighboring or foreign country due to social or political discrimination and who fear loss of life or persecution upon returning to their country. They are called refugees in international law. Internationally, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) takes care of refugees in coordination with the concerned country or countries.
This year, on the occasion of the World Refugee Day (June 20), UNHCR head (High Commissioner) Filippo Grandi said the number of refugees around the world is increasing at an alarming rate. He expressed concern and said that violence among people is increasing. He lamented that we live in a polarized world where international tensions dismiss all humanitarian issues. There is a growing laxity among countries in following the principles of the 1951 Refugee Convention, even among many signatories to that convention.'
Currently, the number of displaced Myanmar nationals (Rohingya) residing in Cox's Bazar and Noakhali in Bangladesh is said to be 9 lakh, but with the addition of 30,000 new births every year, this number will exceed 12 lakh in 2022. However, Bangladesh does not recognize these Rohingya as refugees and calls them Forcefully Displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMN). 
Even though the Rohingya crisis that has been going on since 2017 has been going on for almost 6 years, it can be said without hesitation that there is no visible progress in resolving it, i.e., repatriation to Myanmar. At different times, the representatives of different countries and international organizations during their visits to Bangladesh have traditionally only heard the message of hope.
During a visit to Cox's Bazar on March 30, Senior Vice President for US Development Daniel Runde said that the US is serious about solving the Rohingya problem. He said that the United States is working with the international community for a sustainable solution to the Rohingya problem. Meanwhile, in mid-April, an impromptu meeting on the Chinese-mediated repatriation of the Rohingya was held in Kunming, where officials from the foreign ministries of Bangladesh, Myanmar, and China participated.
A 27-member team, including 20 Rohingyas, visited Maungdaw in Myanmar's Rakhine state on May 5 to boost the Rohingyas' confidence and interest in repatriation. They visited various villages and transit centers in Maungdaw city and spoke to the Rohingyas there. From their reactions, it can be understood that all those hoping for repatriation are optimistic.
Meanwhile, as time goes on, there is increasing uncertainty about the continuation of humanitarian aid for the Rohingya. The reason for this is the prolongation of the Rohingya's stay and the creation of new humanitarian crises around the world. Humanitarian services for the Rohingya are challenged to continue at the same level while providing funding for the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the war in Ukraine, the floods in Pakistan, the earthquake in Turkey, the civil war in Sudan, the food crisis in Africa, etc.
The 2022 report of the United Nations Office in Dhaka, published on April 4, feared a financial crisis in 2023 with Rohingya aid. On June 1, the United Nations cut the per capita allocation for the Rohingya to $8 for the second time in a year, from $12 earlier this year. The UN said it had to take this step as funding sources for the Rohingya continued to dwindle. As of June 1, only 24 percent had been pledged against the UN's $876 million aid appeal for 2023. On the other hand, it is not possible for Bangladesh to bear the pressure of more than 12 lakh Rohingya indefinitely.
Although the government has sheltered these Rohingyas for humanitarian reasons, there is practically no regional or international initiative to repatriate them. Although the government has been vocal about the Rohingya issue in bilateral discussions and various national and international forums, world leaders are not seen as active in solving the problem; rather, the matter is still limited to assurances. During the Prime Minister's visit to Geneva last week, when UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi met him, the Prime Minister called for creating a favorable environment for the return of the Rohingyas to the country.
Grundy reiterated UNHCR's support for Bangladesh on repatriation but acknowledged its limitations. Meanwhile, the joint working group (JWG) of Bangladesh and Myanmar on the issue of Rohingya repatriation was held in June 2022, after three years.
Most of the world's refugee camps are long-term destinations for refugees, and their inhabitants are travelers on an uncertain path. Refugees in Bangladesh (Rohingya) have been living inhumane lives in confined spaces for a minimum of 6 years and a maximum of 30 years. Syrian refugees have been in Turkey and other countries for more than a decade. The Afghan refugee crisis in Pakistan and Iran has been ongoing since the 1990s.
During the post-Afghan war (2001–2002) that began after the 9-11 (2001) attacks by the United States, Afghan refugees took shelter in Pakistan, where 36 million refugees were already stayed since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1990s. Half of these refugees scattered across the world are children (under 18), who face an uncertain future without formal education.
According to international law, no refugee may be forced to return to their home country, where they are at risk of further persecution. In parallel, as a populous country, it is not possible for Bangladesh to shelter refugees or displaced Rohingyas staying in the country for a long period of time in accordance with international standards. Apart from this, due to the delay in their repatriation, various social disturbances are occurring frequently. Incidents of violence and conflict are frequent inside and outside the camps, which is alarming. In addition, Rohingyas often spread outside the camps, even to different parts of the country, and get involved in illegal activities.
The author
We must not only sympathize with the plight of refugees. The forces that are creating this situation must be held accountable. Public opinion should be created in favor of refugees in the domestic and international arenas. The sooner the repatriation of Rohingyas is possible, the better for Rohingyas and their host countries. Sustainable repatriation through bilateral and international diplomatic efforts is the only solution to this crisis. So, the role of rich countries cannot be ignored; big countries must work earnestly to solve the refugee problem.
*Independent researcher and freelance columnist, Dhaka



Avoidable Narmada floods: Modi birthday fete caused long wait for release of dam waters

Counterview Desk  Top advocacy group, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), has accused the Sardar Sarovar dam operators for once again acting in an "unaccountable" manner, bringing "avoidable floods in downstream Gujarat."  In a detailed analysis, SANDRP has said that the water level at the Golden Bridge in Bharuch approached the highest flood level on September 17, 2023, but these "could have been significantly lower and much less disastrous" both for the upstream and downstream areas of the dam, if the authorities had taken action earlier based on available actionable information.

Biden urged to warn Modi: US can declare India as worst religious freedom offender

By Our Representative  During a Congressional Briefing held on Capitol Hill, Washington DC, Nadine Maenza, former Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), has wondered why the Biden administration should raise issues of mass anti-minority mob violence  -- particularly in Haryana and Manipur -- with Modi. Modi should be told that if such violence continues, the US will be “compelled by law” to designate India as one of the world’s worst offenders of religious freedom, she urged.

From 'Naatu-Naatu' to 'Nipah-Nipah': Dancing to the tune of western pipers?

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD*  Some critics have commented that the ecstatic response of most Indians to the Oscar for the racy Indian song, “Naatu-Naatu” from the film, “RRR” reeks of sheer racism, insulting visuals and a colonial hangover. It was perhaps these ingredients that impressed the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, one critic says.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Asset managers hold '2.8 times more equity' in fossil fuel cos than in green investments

By Deepanwita Gita Niyogi*  The world’s largest asset managers are far off track to meet the  2050 net zero commitments , a new study  released by InfluenceMap , a London-based think tank working on climate change and sustainability, says. Released on August 1, the Asset Managers and Climate Change 2023 report by FinanceMap, a work stream of InfluenceMap, finds that the world’s largest asset managers have not improved on their climate performance in the past two years.

Evading primary responsibility, ONGC decides to invest Rs 15,000 crore in sick subsidiary

By NS Venkataraman*  It is reported that Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) will infuse about Rs 15,000 crore in ONGC Petro-additions Ltd (OPaL) as part of a financial restructuring exercise. ONGC currently holds 49.36 per cent stake in (OPaL), which operates a mega petrochemical plant at Dahej in Gujarat. GAIL (India) Ltd has 49.21 per cent interest and Gujarat State Petrochemical Corporation (GSPC) has the remaining 1.43 per cent.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Sales, profits of Indian firms 'deteriorate', yet no significant increase in cost pressures

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad's (IIM-A's) latest Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES), a monthly exercise, has said that while cost perceptions data does not indicate significant increase of cost pressures, sales and profits of the Indian firms have deteriorated.

'State-sanctioned terror': Stop drone attack on Adivasis, urge over 80 world academics

Counterview Desk  A joint statement, “Indigenous Peoples’ Un-Freedoms and Our Academic Freedom: A Call for Solidarity”, endorsed by over 80 signatories, including international academics, activists and civil society organizations, as well as diasporic Indian academics and researchers, working with Adivasi (indigenous) communities in India, has made an urgent appeal to prevent future drone bomb attacks by the Indian state on Adivasi villages.