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UNHCR: Bhashan Char much better than Cox’s Bazar camps

  • Published at 02:19 pm June 2nd, 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

UN officials praise PM Hasina for her role in tackling the Rohingya crisis

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, on Wednesday cleared its position regarding protection and assistance towards Rohingyas both in Cox’s Bazar and Bhashan Char, saying that they will continue to be present in various places around the country indicating the inclusion of Bhashan Char.

“The government has made a very important investment in Bhashan Char. Bhashan Char is a much better (place than Cox’s Bazar camps),” Raouf Mazou, UNHCR assistant high commissioner for operations, told reporters after their meeting with Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen.

He said they are with the government of Bangladesh and they always work with the government. “We’re present in Cox’s Bazar. We’ll continue to be present in various places around the country and will work with the government to ensure assistance to refugees.”

Raouf said anybody may feel isolated in Bhasan Char but they must have economic activities apart from education and healthcare facilities.

Gillian Triggs, the assistant high commissioner for protection, said they are here to work and support the government in ensuring the protection of these Rohingyas.

The UNHCR official said that is the mandate from the UN, and they do so under that mandate.

“It’s the biggest refugee camp in the world. We fully support the prime minister’s (Sheikh Hasina) policy,” Gillian said, adding that the aim is to see repatriation.

Also Read- Rohingyas in Bhashan Char demonstrate during senior UNHCR officials’ visit

Appreciating the prime minister’s leadership, she said the UNHCR has been grateful for generous hospitality of Bangladesh for many decades, including a big burden in the last four years. “They should go home.”

On the third country settlement, the UNHCR officials said there is an opportunity for a third country settlement that can be explored – very small numbers – but it is not a long-term solution.

Foreign Minister Dr Momen said they have been trying hard for repatriation of Rohingyas as Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas.

“It’s almost four years,” he said, adding that the UNHCR officials saw the plight of Rohingyas who are very frustrated due to delay in repatriation.

Also Read - Govt: UN will engage in Bhashan Char operations very soon

The foreign minister urged the UNHCR to give more focus on Rakhine state and take Rohingya leaders to Rakhine to allow them to see the situation there.

Dr Momen said Rohingyas want economic activities and money to live on.

The foreign minister said the military government might listen to the UN if much pressure is given resulting in a hope for repatriation.

Also Read- 'Rohingyas confirmed to AHCs that relocation to Bhashan Char completely voluntary'

During the UNHCR senior officials’ visit to Bhasan Char, a large number of Rohingya gathered together and expressed their frustration.

The two senior officials of the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, arrived here on Sunday on a four-day visit and saw the Rohingya situation both in Cox's Bazar Rohingya camps and Bhasan Char.

In absence of any progress in repatriation, they expressed desperation to get out of the present situation and requested to consider relocation to a third country, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Rohingyas demanded the UN's presence in Bhashan Char to ensure facilities such as education, livelihood activities, skill development etc, the Foreign Ministry said.

They also confirmed to the AHCs that their relocation to Bhashan Char was completely on a voluntary basis.

In recent times, there have been a number of important visits to Bhashan Char, including the visits of the OIC Assistant Secretary General, the 18-member UN team and most recently a group of Ambassadors.

Also Read- Rohingya relocation to Bhashan Char: UN proposes further discussions with govt before engaging

During all these visits, the Rohingyas spontaneously and happily interacted with the visiting guests both in informal and formal settings.

The ministry said Rohingyas are Myanmar nationals and any arrangement for them in Bangladesh; be it in Cox’s Bazar or in Bhashan Char; is purely on a temporary basis until they return to their country.

The Rohingyas also want to return to their homeland and all including the UNHCR need to work constructively to that end, said the ministry.

The UN is expected to assume their responsibility and operate within their mandate taking into account the ground reality and concerns of the host community, Bangladesh says.

The government of Bangladesh, on its part, is ready to address any realistic needs and concerns of the Rohingyas, said the Foreign Ministry.

Bangladesh Navy has implemented the Ashryan-3 at Bhashan Char, an island 37 miles off the mainland under the administrative jurisdiction of Hatiya, at the cost of Tk 3,100 crore for accommodating 100,000 Rohingyas.

A total of 120 brick-built cluster villages and 120 cyclone shelters, facilities for education, hospital, farming and fishing, playground and presence of law enforcers make the island a much better living place for the Rohingyas than that of Cox’s Bazar camps.

The move was taken after some 750,000 Rohingyas fled a military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine State in 2017 and took shelter in Teknaf and Ukhia.

Since December last year, some 20,000 Rohingyas from Cox’s Bazar were relocated but the UN is yet to engage in Bhashan Char.