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‘Put pressure on Myanmar to take Rohingyas back’

  • Staff Correspondent
  • 17 August, 2021 12:00 AM
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‘Put pressure on Myanmar to take Rohingyas back’
A Rohingya woman along with her children shelters from the rain in a camp in Cox’s Bazar. —Reuters photo

Speakers at a programme urged the international community to play a stronger role in helping Bangladesh diplomatically to exert pressure on Myanmar to take Rohingyas back.

The Bangladesh government has done the best possible thing for this persecuted minority, but now it is up to the international community to come forward and assist in repatriation of the Rohingyas back to Myanmar, they said.

They were addressing a webinar titled ‘Humanitarian Norms, National Security and the Rohingya Policy of Bangladesh’ organised by Central Foundation for International and Strategic Studies (CFISS) recently.

Dr ASM Ali Ashraf, a professor of international relations at Dhaka University, was the chief guest at the event which was moderated by retired Commodore Mohammed Nurul Absar, also the Chairman of Central Foundation for International and Strategies Studies.. The meeting was attended by people from different social strata including academics, diplomats, government officials, researchers, security experts and students.

In his welcome speech, Mohammed Nurul Absar said the Bangladesh government has done their best to protect the Rohingyas by sheltering them when they fled Rakhine in the face of persecution.

But, he said, it is not possible to accommodate such a huge number of refugees, almost the size of the total population of Bhutan, for an indefinite period of time and repatriation is the only solution in this case.

At the event, Dr ASM Ali Ashraf presented a research paper. He demonstrated the theoretical as well as the practical background of the refugee condition in Bangladesh.

The main essence of his research was the question of how humanitarian norms and national security concerns shape a host state policy towards forced migration and where Bangladesh stands with its Rohingya crisis amidst these dilemmas.

“Though we are hosting the highest number of refugees in the world, there is a lack of any prior systematic analysis of the refugee policy indicators, mode of action followed by Bangladesh as per these indicators, and what factors have influenced these policies from time to time,” he said. He stated that the main indicators of host state policy are three-fold -- legal and bureaucratic response, attitude towards international refugee organization, and approach to admission and treatment of asylum-seekers.

Later he analyzed each of these indicators separately in the context of the Rohingya crisis and discussed other factors that unfolded gradually in the policy-making machinery of Bangladesh bureaucracy and foreign diplomacy. He then focused on the two schools of theoretical approaches of the logic behind hosting forcibly displaced people.

The liberal view that is based on humanitarianism, states that this should be the prime reason for hosting a huge number of refugees and it advocates admission of rights and protection needs of refugees in a host country. On the contrary, the realist, who imposes that the concept of national security is most prioritized in this kind of crisis.

Lastly, he explained the Rohingya policy for Bangladesh and suggested the best course of action to deal with this crisis is repatriation.

The humanitarian aspect has played a primary role during the initial period of the exodus and factors like a religious fraternity, the influence of UNHCR, and geostrategic position were complementary to it. But the realists now believe that the extent of humanitarianism has crossed our capability and now it is time to focus on our internal security.

The mass influx has changed the scenario of Cox’s Bazar, one of the most eminent tourism spots for us — through deforestation, collision with locals, arms and drugs trafficking among Rohingya groups and the threat of rising extremism among them cannot also be eliminated. After the well-constructed presentation, the discussion moved towards  a question-and-answer session where the attendees placed some highly constructive comments and inquiries.

The questions covered areas like the role of India, China, and Japan, the interest of Quad nations and China through its BRI project in the prospect of this crisis, the proposal of the World Bank to move towards Rohingya integration policy, the scope of UN agencies regarding interfering in refugee policy implementation in host countries, the prospective implications of the Bhashan Char project and many other important questions.

The presenter and the moderator answered with complete vigor that the only solution to this problem is repatriation and they invited international actors to play a vital role in this endeavor.

They suggested the West and China keep this issue away from their geostrategic interests ground and solely consider the atrocities and oppression carried against these people.

It was also said that not condemning Myanmar and not pressurizing it for repatriation gives an image that these actors are legalizing Myanmar’s heinous act which has been mentioned as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing by the UN Human Rights Chief.