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



Bill Gates as funder, author, editor, adviser? Data imperialism: manipulating the metrics

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD*  When Mahatma Gandhi on invitation from Buckingham Palace was invited to have tea with King George V, he was asked, “Mr Gandhi, do you think you are properly dressed to meet the King?” Gandhi retorted, “Do not worry about my clothes. The King has enough clothes on for both of us.”

Stagnating wages since 2014-15: Economists explain Modi legacy for informal workers

By Our Representative  Real wages have barely risen in India since 2014-15, despite rapid GDP growth. The country’s social security system has also stagnated in this period. The lives of informal workers remain extremely precarious, especially in states like Jharkhand where casual employment is the main source of livelihood for millions. These are some of the findings presented by economists Jean Drèze and Reetika Khera at a press conference convened by the Loktantra Bachao 2024 campaign. 

Displaced from Bangladesh, Buddhist, Hindu groups without citizenship in Arunachal

By Sharma Lohit  Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajongs were settled in the 1960s in parts of Changlang and Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh after they had fled Chittagong Hill Tracts of present Bangladesh following an ethnic clash and a dam disaster. Their original population was around 5,000, but at present, it is said to be close to one lakh.

Anti-Rupala Rajputs 'have no support' of numerically strong Kshatriya communities

By Rajiv Shah  Personally, I have no love lost for Purshottam Rupala, though I have known him ever since I was posted as the Times of India representative in Gandhinagar in 1997, from where I was supposed to do political reporting. In news after he made the statement that 'maharajas' succumbed to foreign rulers, including the British, and even married off their daughters them, there have been large Rajput rallies against him for “insulting” the community.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

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. 

Joblessness, saffronisation, corporatisation of education: BJP 'squarely responsible'

Counterview Desk  In an open appeal to youth and students across India, several student and youth organizations from across India have said that the ruling party is squarely accountable for the issues concerning the students and the youth, including expensive education and extensive joblessness.

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Following the 3000-year old Pharaoh legacy? Poll-eve Surya tilak on Ram Lalla statue

By Sukla Sen  Located at a site called Abu Simbel in Nubia, Upper Egypt, the eponymous rock temples were created in 1244 BCE, under the orders of Pharaoh Ramesses II (1303-1213 BC)... Ramesses II was fond of showcasing his achievements. It was this desire to brag about his victory that led to the planning and eventual construction of the temples (interestingly, historians say that the Battle of Qadesh actually ended in a draw based on the depicted story -- not quite the definitive victory Ramesses II was making it out to be).

Why it's only Modi ki guarantee, not BJP's, and how Varanasi has seen it up-close

"Development" along Ganga By Rosamma Thomas*  I was in Varanasi in this April, days before polling began for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. There are huge billboards advertising the Member of Parliament from Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The only image on all these large hoardings is of the PM, against a saffron background. It is as if the very person of Modi is what his party wishes to showcase.