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RMMRU: Not recognizing Rohingyas as refugees might stop international aid in the near future

  • Published at 12:25 am December 30th, 2019
Rohingya camp
FILE PHOTO: Bangladesh now hosts more than 1.1 million Rohingyas after nearly 700,000 crossed into the country from Myanmar following the 2017 brutal military crackdown in Rakhine State to join the Rohingyas who were already in the country Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Labour Migration Trend Report-2019: Increase of 17% in remittance, 10% decrease in the supply of migrant workers 

Lawyers and academics criticized the government for their repeated mistake of not recognizing the Rohingya as refugees and failing to term the oppression as genocide, which in near future is likely to interrupt the international aid supply that largely supports the aid operations in Cox’s Bazar. 

Furthermore, they warned that it might also hamper the proceedings in the case filed with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by The Gambia. 

The statements were made at a report revealing program of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), held at the Press Club in Dhaka on Sunday. 

Replying to a question, the chair of the unit, senior advocate of Bangladesh Supreme Court Dr Shahdeen Malik said that the government is trying not to recognize them as refugees.  

They are acting without understanding the issue since there is a popular myth that if they recognized them as refugees, they might have to ensure certain rights -- education, health, food and so forth -- for these people. 

“If they [government] keep them inside camps surrounded by barbed-wire fencing without recognizing them as refugees, the international community will stop its aid supply within two years,” he said.

"The international community will never accept it," he added.

While explaining the reasons behind the government's failure in doing so, he said that there is no government official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who knows or studies international law on refugees, which is why we are yet to solve the crisis. 

"Besides, the lawyers at the Supreme Court are also in the dark as they did not study the law a well," he opined. 

Dr Shahdeen Malik also slammed the civil society for failing to develop any expertise on the issue. 

Earlier, founding chair of the unit Professor Dr Tasneem Siddiqui said: "Not recognizing forcibly displaced Rohingyas as refugees might also hamper the initiatives of providing justice to the Rohingya through international courts of justice." 

She also expressed concerns regarding the National Register of Citizens (NRC) - Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and said: "Although the top authority of India is saying that no deportation would be carried out but in reality, they have already started pushing back people." 

17% increase in remittance; 10% decrease in migrant workers projected

RMMRU's report "Labour Migration Trend Report-2019" stated that while remittance may reach US$18.19 bn with an increase of 17.055% by the end of this year if the flow continues, the number of migrant workers will decrease by 10% at the same time. 

Bangladeshi expatriates have sent US$16.67 bn until November this year, as suggested by the report revealed by the unit. 

"A total of 6,04,060 Bangladeshi workers went abroad including different countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia," Prof Tasneem Siddiqui said while adding that the number of Bangladeshi workers will see a 10% decline (1,30,121 people less than last year) this year.

However, she said that there is nothing to worry about since such trends in migration keep changing. 

The professor of Political Science at the University of Dhaka also pointed at another issue saying: "The Probashi Kallyan Bank was not able to provide a single paisa as loan until November 2019 for the rehabilitation of the returnees."  

Replying to a question, she said the cost of sending migrant workers cannot be lessened only by setting up a cost chart by the government. "Rather, it is imperative to ensure a constant flow of recruitment in the international job markets. Because our research suggests that if there is a regular flow of jobs, the cost becomes reasonable."  

Earlier, Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment State Minister Imran Ahmed, said: “The number of workers which we are sending abroad have decreased a little, as we are focusing on sending skilled workers. That is why remittance is increasing despite the number of workers going abroad is decreasing."

Top issues within the migration sector throughout 2019

  • Unexpected return of female workers 
  • Saudization and deportation of male workers from KSA
  • New and old international labour markets
  • Case in ICJ against Myanmar for conducting genocide 
  • NRC bill in India and its impact on Bangladesh

Appreciated policy initiatives by the government in 2019

  • Incentives for expatriates to send remittance
  • Introducing life insurances
  • Special initiatives for ensuring safety of female workers

Yet to achieve

  • Securing job flow in international markets
  • Deploying efficient labour attachés in embassies 
  • Deploying female officials where female workers are sent
  • Making Probashi Kallyan Bank effective
  • Registering middlemen under upazila expatriate welfare office
  • Conducting postmortem of the expatriates returning after death
  • Making a database of the returnee expatriates, mentioning their expertise
  • Recognizing the Rohingya as refugees and increase diplomatic approaches    
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