• Thursday, Jul 07, 2022
  • Last Update : 04:24 pm

Commentary: A misplaced focus

  • Published at 07:31 pm February 24th, 2021
WEB_Rohingyas getting briefed at Bhashan Char - 04.12.2020
File photo of Rohingya refugees getting briefed about their stay at Bhashan Char after relocating there from the refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, on Friday, December 4, 2020 Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan/Dhaka Tribune

What Bangladesh has so far done for the Rohingyas, no other nations or any international agency can claim to have come close to doing

The world will remember Angela Merkel’s Germany and Donald Trump’s America for two different reasons. One for embracing refugees in crisis and the other for erecting a border wall in pursuit of halting their influx from Mexico.

As an aftermath of protracted war in Yemen and the Battle of Aleppo, many refugees from the Arab world sought asylum to Europe, with Germany standing out as the most gracious and generous host, accommodating three quarters of all asylum seekers.

Trump went to the extent of famously tweeting misinformation claiming that Germany was facing record crime rates owing to too many Syrians taking refuge there. Merkel was quick to respond, providing the true facts. In fact, in 2018 Germany’s crime rate fell to its lowest level since 1992.

Since August 2017, Bangladesh started facing a large scale influx of Rohingyas. Often dubbed as the world’s most persecuted ethnic group, Rohingyas living in Rakhine State fled Myanmar amidst genocide unleashed by state forces and ultra-nationalist Buddhists.

The Myanmar authorities used an attack on their security forces as a pretext to drive out more than half of a community, largely followers of Islam. When many of Myanmar’s regional neighbours shut the doors in their faces, Bangladesh made an exception and opened its border to allow well over 750,000 persecuted Rohingyas to take refuge here.

There were already over 300,000 more of the same community staying in Bangladesh as Myanmar drove them out in the past.

Ever since that time Bangladesh has been playing host to over 1.1 million Rohingyas in a country that the whole world knows for its overpopulation. Given the high density of population and limited land and other resources, ideally Bangladesh should have been the most unlikely country to shelter refugees.

But in this instance, Bangladesh appeared to be the ultimate saviour for thousands of displaced Rohingyas who failed in their desperate bids to land on many other shores.

Till today, there are nations and states around us (regional neighbours of both Bangladesh and Myanmar), who wouldn’t allow any single refugee boat, with Rohingyas onboard, to land or take any temporary refuge. There are ostensibly friendly nations who have expressed sympathy for Rohingyas but appear to feel shy when it comes to taking them in.

Bangladesh is even under pressure now to take back several thousand Rohingyas who managed to go abroad, i.e. to Saudi Arabia, for work as migrant workers over the past few years.

What Bangladesh has so far done for Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingyas — no other nations of the world or any international agency can claim to have come close to doing.

But a most unfortunate development is that some agencies, international rights bodies and the western media are continuously blaming Bangladesh for a partial relocation of some Rohingyas from Cox’s Bazar to Bhashan Char. 

When the relocated refugees found their new abode in a Hatiya island more spacious and comfortable to live in, much better than their cramped refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf, some groups appeared hell-bent in projecting Bhashan Char as a wrong choice for Rohingyas.

Given the resources, the government of Bangladesh has built one of the best facilities that any refugee community of the world could hope for, arranging for their food, lodging, and emergency health facilities. Yet, some groups are out to malign this commendable humanitarian effort.

While batch after batch of several thousand Rohingyas have already shifted to Bhashan Char and are leading a decent life there, leaving the dreadful memories of genocide in their own land (Myanmar) and cramped camps of Teknaf behind, it is hard to understand why some groups are demeaning this initiative.

Wouldn’t they be better advised to shift their displaced focus and mount pressure on Myanmar to immediately take back its nationals?

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