Following August 25, 2017, the migration of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees running away to Bangladesh occupied world’s most of newspapers’ headlines and continued for almost a month after Myanmar security forces imposed “clearance operation”, targeting the minority Rohingya population from Rakhine state. According to the 444-page report prepared by the UN’s Independent Facts Finding Commission, more than 725,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh, at least 10,000 Rohingya were killed, hundreds of women and girls were raped (mostly gang-raped), and around 392 Rohingya villages were partially or fully ruined. UNHCR has labeled the Myanmar government’s cruelty towards the Rohingya people as “ethnic cleansing”. People of the Rohingya ethnic group have been described by the United Nations and others as the world’s most persecuted minority. From that time Bangladesh has become abode to 1.1 million Rohingya refugees, including those who have fled previous atrocities as well as new arrivals. Kutupalong refugee camp, which covers up an area of 13 kilometres, has become the largest refugee camp in the world for hosting 700,000 Rohingya refugees in a single camp.
The solution to the Rohingya crisis has not been resolved yet. Bangladesh enjoyed an uninterrupted 10 years of economic prosperity between FY2009 and FY2019. Growing at an average pace of 7% per year during this period, Bangladesh is amongst the fastest growing countries in the world. While extensive international humanitarian relief has poured in to support the refugees, that doesn’t cover all the economic costs to the government or to the border region’s Bangladeshi citizens. The coastal town and beaches of Cox’s Bazar used to be Bangladesh’s main tourist destination; now the area is awash with foreign aid workers. The refugees have changed the demographics of Bangladesh’s Ukhia and Teknaf areas, where Rohingya now outnumber locals 2 to 1. Bangladesh government built a planned housing facility in Bhasan Char that includes hospitals, cyclone shelters, school facilities, high flood protection embankment, while projects are undergoing to create livelihood options for the Rohingyas. Starting from December last year until now, more than 10,000 Rohingyas were relocated to the housing facility in this island. Eventually, one lakh will be relocated to ease congestion in the camps of Cox’s Bazar. Bangladesh Government requested the UN and other international organization’s support for humanitarian assistance there for the Rohingyas. Rohingya refugees are the most marginalized and persecuted section of people in the world.
The atrocity of Myanmar has added insult to injury on the existing crisis. Even the demographic vulnerability and socio-economic condition of the country do not suggest taking over extra responsibility but the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina has shown unprecedented generosity in sheltering the Rohingya refugees. As a result, Bangladesh faces many challenges and problems, along with social, environmental, legal and financial impacts. National and international human rights bodies are concerned about their everyday struggle for food and water supply, sanitation, healthcare, housing, education, cooking materials, childcare, maternity support and daily essentials. There are also increasing concerns regarding the growing degradation of the local ecology, rapid deforestation from using firewood, mounting illegal border trade, encroaching of grassland for livestock rearing and more. On January 23, 2020, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ordered Myanmar to take all necessary measures to protect Rohingya Muslims from genocide. But there are no reliable promises or solid preparations from the Myanmar end that would give the Rohingya enough hope to return to their homeland. The Rohingya people are leading their lives in extreme uncertainty. We can see no ray of hope except their struggling present and an uncertain future.
Although the Rohingya eagerly await a safe and dignified return to their homeland, they find little hopes in the given context of the Rohingya crisis. Dr A K Abdul Momen, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh urged the UN Security Council (UNSC) to fulfill its Charter obligations and take measures to resolve crisis in Myanmar so the Rohingyas can return to their homes in safety, security and dignity. We strongly expect that the international community should extend their assistance to help the Rohingya in refugee camps and make their lives more “liveable” in Bangladesh. A global force should be shaped to compel Myanmar to comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 to bring the Rohingya living in Bangladesh back to Myanmar with safety, dignity and legal recognition.
M. A. Asif Khan
Assistant Coordinator- International Relations