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Rohingya crisis, one year on: An awful past, a present in despair, and an uncertain future

  • Published at 02:10 am August 25th, 2018
Aerial view of a burned Rohingya village near Maungdaw, north of Rakhine State, Myanmar on September 27, 2017 Reuters file photo

UN bodies, international rights organizations, NGOs, and Rohingya diasporas, talk to the Dhaka Tribune regarding the ongoing crisis and possible solution

One year has passed but still no headway has been made in solving the ongoing Rohingya crisis. 

Since August 25, 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh after the Myanmar military, along with Rakhine-resident Moghs, committed atrocities against them. 

They have joined about 400,000 Rohingyas, who came previously in 1978, 1991-92, 2012, and 2015-16.

The huge number of Rohingyas is now sheltering at 32 densely overcrowded camps, stretching across some 10,000 acres of hilly lands from Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhiya upazila to Teknaf upazila.

Our Dhaka Tribune correspondent talked with different international rights organizations, UN bodies, and NGOs, to know about the future of Rohingyas and what might be a solution to the crisis.

Giorgi Gigauri, chief of mission, International Organization of Migration (IOM), Bangladesh

“A year into the crisis, conditions have improved immeasurably since the early days of the influx when thousands of people were sleeping under open skies, many injured and on the brink of starvation.”

“Rohingya leaders, the government of Bangladesh, and the UN, are all clear that the Rohingya must be allowed to return to Myanmar if they wish. However, any return must be voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable, and it is evident that those conditions are not in place.

“While any solution to this crisis ultimately lies with the Myanmar authorities, the international community must not turn their back on the Rohingya and on Bangladesh now.”

“WFP operations are still critically underfunded. We urgently need $110 million to sustain food assistance to more than 860,000 Rohingya refugees in the Cox’s Bazar area through January...WFP urges donors to commit to longer-term, flexible, multi-year funding to maintain the necessary level of assistance.

“Any refugee repatriation must be safe, voluntary and dignified. This will be critical to durable solutions and restoring sustainable peace and stability in the region.”

Shelley Thakral, communication delegate, World Food Programme (WFP), Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

Manuel Fontaine, director of emergency operations, United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (Unicef)

 “Unicef calls for a concerted effort to build a new foundation for the rights and opportunities of Rohingya children over the longer term.

“By taking resolute action together, we – the international community as well as the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar – can give Rohingya children’s lives a stability and sense of hope that is currently absent.”

“Of course, a lasting solution to the plight of the Rohingya requires tackling the root causes of the crisis inside Myanmar itself. The refugees cannot and will not agree to return home until the discrimination and violence that they have experienced [is adequately addressed]. Besides, Bangladesh and the international community have critical responsibilities to address.”

“The situation in Rakhine remains difficult for civilians and the need for humanitarian assistance remains high. The Red Cross Movement is providing protection and assisting those who remain in Rakhine State.”

“The repatriation in Myanmar will not be a quick process. The process of return must be voluntary, safe, and dignified...We hope the political solutions necessary to allow safe, dignified, voluntary returns, are found as soon as possible.”

Corinne Ambler, communications delegate, International Committee of the Red Cross, Myanmar

Caroline Gluck, senior public information officer, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Bangladesh

“UNHCR does not believe that, currently, conditions in Myanmar are conducive to return. It is crucial that any returns take place in safety, in dignity, and are sustainable.  Only refugees can determine the timing and pace of repatriation.  

“In the meantime, UNHCR will continue to work closely with the Government of Bangladesh and other humanitarian agencies to support the refugees with life-saving assistance as well as helping with their basic needs; we also need to continue to provide hope for the refugees that they will have a better future.” 

“UNHCR is ready to provide technical support to the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar to find a long term solution to this crisis.   The current humanitarian crisis requires a political solution – and that, ultimately, lies with the Myanmar authorities.”

“The Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar insist on their rights of return to reclaim their burned homes and trampled rights in Myanmar. But this can only happen if fundamental preconditions are met -- recognition of citizenship, Rohingya identity, justice, and peace.”

“These are not unreasonable conditions, but Myanmar has shown no inclination to respect Rohingya rights.

“Bangladesh should not back down on insisting on the rights of these refugees to return. But neither should it obstruct the refugees from safe and productive lives while they await return, including sturdy shelter, decent living conditions, and proper education for their children, for fear that this would signal to Myanmar any less a commitment to a restoration of their rights in their homeland.”

Bill Frelick, director of refugee rights program, Human Rights Watch, Headquarters

Ikhtiyar Aslanov, head of delegation, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Bangladesh

“The situation in Cox’s Bazar following the massive displacement was fluid. Now, after a year we can say things are slowly settling down in the camps. The ICRC, along with Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, has also managed to build its capacity to support host communities who have been able to benefit from the micro-economic initiatives.

“While we acknowledge the negotiations for the return process which is taking place alongside the humanitarian response, the current situation with one year passing also brings us to a point where we need to collectively look into the medium term solutions.

“The longer the displaced people stay, their needs change in nature too. Hence, it is important for humanitarian communities to come together with the government and local authorities of Bangladesh and representatives from displaced people as well as host communities to better and more efficiently plan for the times to come.”

“We, Rohingyas, have been seeking justice but the United Nations Security Council has failed...They won’t be considered citizens but will be given National Verification Cards. Going back to Myanmar will be like going back to a killing field.

“Rohingyas need international protection in their homeland in Arakan/Rakhine, Myanmar. The name Rohingya has to be officially recognized. The demands of refugees have to be fulfilled before return.”

Nay San Lwin, Rohingya blogger and coordinator, Free Rohingya Coalition, London, United Kingdom

Saad Hammadi, regional campaigner, Amnesty International, South Asia Region

“The situation is still precarious for the Rohingya. In Myanmar, they are subject to an entrenched system of discrimination and segregation that denies them access to basic services and key freedoms. In Bangladesh, they languish in the limbo of the refugee camps, struggling to eke out an existence amid the overcrowded and threadbare camps.

“They will be stuck there until the Myanmar government shows its commitment to creating the conditions conducive for them to return voluntarily and with dignity. Bangladesh has shown great compassion for the refugees despite its own challenges. The international community must step up its commitment to ensure accountability for the crimes committed against the Rohingyas in Myanmar and allocation of resources in Bangladesh until the time they can return home.”

“Already a year has passed. The emergency crisis after the huge influx of Rohingyas has been to a certain degree addressed by UN agencies, NGOs and INGOs, along with the Bangladesh government. However the crisis has turned protracted with an uncertain future, given the position of the Myanmar government with regard to the Rohingyas, and that of the Rakhine state.

“The Rohingyas are now in need of their other rights like education, livelihood, job opportunities, and secured livelihood and their children’s future. The aid agencies and international communities have to work more to ensure such necessities until they go back to Myanmar with dignity and rights.”

Farah Kabir, country director, ActionAid, Bangladesh

Dr Bardan Jung Rana, country representative, World Health Organization (WHO), Country Office for Bangladesh

“We have not seen a displacement of this level in decades. Despite multiple measures, including the vaccination campaigns to prevent diseases, by WHO and partner agencies, some complexities and evolving challenges still remain.

“The health needs of the Rohingya continues and will likely increase. Adverse weather will possibly increase the risk of water-borne, vector-borne diseases. The magnitude of the crisis requires continued efforts and generous contributions by all partners to scale up health services.

“The real issue now is what happens next; a year into this crisis, the Rohingya rely on the international community for their survival. We have to find a solution that is sustainable for this population.”

“More than 850,000 Rohingya are dependent on food aid per month. Essential life saving services need rationalization and strengthening of protection mechanisms - so needed to facilitate catharsis of a community striving to heal from the traumas.

 “Alternative livelihood opportunities are essential to build upon the inherent resilience of a battered community. Social cohesion activities need investment to retain harmony between affected communities.

“We trust that conditions in Rakhine will be safe for voluntary and sustainable return of refugees in the future. The here and now is most imminent and we must continue our life-saving activities, for which we need donor contributions. Let us act before it is too late.”

Sumbul Rizvi, senior humanitarian coordinator, Inter Sector Coordination Group (Rohingya refugee response)

Mohammad Abul Kalam, commissioner, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, Bangladesh

“We are working round the clock to ensure the best for the displaced people. Bangladesh wants a dignified and secure repatriation for the Rohingyas.

“Since November, Bangladesh and Myanmar have been working jointly towards a solution to the crisis. After signing the repatriation deal on November 23, the ministerial-level correspondence between the two countries is going on.

“As the damages in Myanmar’s Rakhine are reportedly huge, the reconstruction of the villages and houses of the Rohingyas would also take more time. That’s why the repatriation is likely to take time. But our government is working hard to repatriate Rohingyas to their land with dignity and security.”

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