Several unofficial sources state that close to one million Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar have been living in Bangladesh. Among these groups, around half of them have fled from Myanmar since late August, 2017 in order to escape from the brutal killings and tortures by the Myanmar army.
This compelled migration is one of the most talked about refugee crises in the world. Considering the size of the economy of the country, Bangladesh has been bearing a tremendous burden.
The government of Bangladesh led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has considered the issue from a humanitarian ground as they did not have any other alternative than to open the border for the tortured Rohingya Muslims who were compelled to leave their motherland to save their lives. From this perspective, the present Awami League government has taken a courageous and noble decision to keep the border open for the victims. For this decision, Sheikh Hasina has been titled as “The Mother of Humanity” by the mainstream British media. It is important to mention here that the AL government has not only taken decision of rehabilitation but also declared that the government would provide them with all amenities of life.
The AL government has also remained active diplomatically in order to solve the problem. Most importantly, the way the Prime Minister briefed the world communities at the United Nations summit has been applauded by the world leaders. She urged the world leaders to create pressure on the Myanmar government to take Rohingyas back. Accordingly, one minister from Myanmar has already visited Bangladesh and expressed their desire to reach to an amicable solution of this problem. On the other hand, the home minister of Bangladesh is expected to visit Myanmar in the third week of October to discuss the issue.
Now a pertinent question is: What are the consequences of the Rohingya influx to Bangladesh? The government will have to face a number of challenges due to this. It would create an enormous burden on the economy of the country. Providing with all amenities of life to about one million Rohingya people is not a matter of joke. Of course, different countries have expressed their commitments to assist the Bangladesh government in their endeavour to rehabilitate these groups of distressed population. Against all commitments, it is a demounting task.
These groups of Rohingyas have been living under temporary sheds in different parts of Cox’s Bazar. The main problems that they are confronted with are the scarcity of adequate drinking water and sanitary latrines. Although the government as well as different non-government agencies have been providing drinking water and sanitation related services to these groups of people, but those are not adequate. Thus, there is a possibility that the environment will get polluted at any time. This will not only affect the Rohingya population but also the Bangladesh people residing in that part of the country.
One of the most significant challenges for the government would be to rehabilitate these groups of people. Although, the government has made it clear that the Bangladesh army would be involved in the rehabilitation programmes but, the real challenge is to select the location for their rehabilitation. We have heard that the government is considering some char areas for their rehabilitation. But, finding such a location for all the Rohingya people is not an easy task.
The issue of cultural adaptation deserves special mention here. Of course, there are some similarities among the people of Cox’s Bazar and the Rohingyas in terms of their language and religion, but, it is really challenging for the Bangladesh people to get adjusted with the people from a different country.
It is really a great challenge for the government to provide psychological support to those Rohingyas who are passing through a traumatic situation having been tortured or sexually abused by the Myanmar army. These groups of people require continuous counselling services in order to come out from the trauma.
There is a possibility that different extremist groups may use the influx as a gateway to Bangladesh. If it happens, this would be a great threat to the independence of the country. Thus, the government agencies require remaining vigilant on this issue.
The Indian government has already declared that they would push back the 40,000 Rohingyas to Myanmar who are residing in different parts of the country, including the conflict-riven state of Kashmir. They also need the support of the Myanmar government to face the challenge of insurgency in its remote North-eastern states. Under this circumstance, it is really important for the AL led government to receive the whole hearted support of the Indian government on the issue of amicable settlement of the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh. During the early days of the influx of the Rohingyas in late August, the Indian Government’s stand was more positive towards Myanmar, but, they have started changing their position towards Bangladesh very lately. After the UN summit, the Indian Foreign Minister has expressed their commitment to remain in support of Bangladesh on this issue.
Finally, Rohingya influx has become an important challenge in the context of Bangladesh. It is not only creating pressure on the economy of the country, but also places the country into a dilemma in the regional politics. We expect that the AL government under the able leadership of Sheikh Hasina will handle the issue with great care and reach an amicable solution to the problem. We should not forget the fact that, Rohingya Muslims are also human beings. The Myanmar government has no right to torture them and oust them from their mother land.
The author is a Professor of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh