Dhaka Courier

Future of Rohingyas lies in their “return with full restoration of rights”

Volker Turk, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner (Protection) meets some of the Rohingya volunteer Community Outreach members working with UNHCR partner BRAC in Chakmarkul settlement. Photo: UNHCR

UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection at UNHCR Volker Turk has laid emphasis on safe and dignified return of Rohingya people to their place of origin in Myanmar with full restoration of their rights.

“Their future lies in return in a condition of safety, dignity and with full restoration of their rights,” said the UN Refugee Agency official in a video message from Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar.

He said it is absolutely clear that they, now stateless people, belong to Myanmar.

Turk is currently visiting Bangladesh to assess the situation of the Rohingya people in Bangladesh and explore potential solutions.

Director of the Division of External Relations, Dominique Hyde and Director of the Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, Indrika Ratwatte are accompanying him.

Turk said Rohingya people have been denied a sense of belonging and suffering repression. “And it’s very important that they are in safety as we can see here in the camps around Cox’s Bazar.”

He said the Rohingya people here get a sense of belonging now and that is precisely what the registration does.

The group spent the day meeting Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar.

They also visited one of five centres in the refugee settlements where the joint Bangladesh Government-UNHCR Registration exercise continues.

More than 110,000 refugees have now received new fraud-proof ID cards, according to UNHCR.

For many, it’s the first proper identity documents they have had - vital for their protection and access to services.

UNHCR says registration plays a key role in establishing that individuals have been displaced from Myanmar and have the right to return to their country when it is safe for them to do so.

Turk began his Bangladesh on March 16 and wrap up his visit on March 22, said an official.

Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingya people, officials said.

Over 745,000 Rohingya people including more than 400,000 children have fled from Myanmar’s Rakhine State to Bangladesh since August 2017. More than 16,000 Rohingya have arrived since January 2018.

UN concerned at fresh fighting in Rakhine

UN acting Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Knut Ostby has expressed deep concern over new reports of fighting between the “Arakan Army” and Myanmar security forces causing civilian casualties and displacement of communities in Rakhine State.

Ostby urged all sides of the conflict to ensure the protection of civilians, resolve differences through peaceful means and uphold their responsibilities under International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law, including the preservation of sites of cultural heritage.

He called for effective humanitarian access to populations in need of aid, particularly the children, women, elderly and other affected people.

“The United Nations is in contact with Myanmar authorities and stands ready to continue with the humanitarian support to the affected civilian populations,” reads a statement issued on March 19.

Bangladesh bins US report on HR practices 

Bangladesh has rejected the US State Department’s 2018 country reports on human rights practices saying many things about Bangladesh mentioned in the report ‘by and large’ are more applicable to the US than Bangladesh.

“I’ve enough doubt about their investigation. We welcome reports that are objective and fact-based ones,” said Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen.

He said Bangladesh has already sent a protest note to US authorities in this regard and mentioned that it would be more objective if they have done their own investigation.

The Foreign Minister said the US report provided information in the name of individuals and organisations. The US publishes such reports routinely, he said adding that, there is nothing to be worried about it.

Referring to attack on Prof Muhammed Zafar Iqbal, the Foreign Minister said the government deserves appreciation as the attacker was arrested and wondered how the US termed it a terrorist attack.

The Foreign Minister suggested the US authorities to go for a rigorous investigation and come up with an “informative and objective” report in the future which will help Bangladesh address the weaknesses, if any.

Talking about polls issues in the US and Bangladesh, he said Bangladesh practises better democracy than others.

US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo formally released the 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Washington DC recently. The report highlighted various rights issues and reported abuses and Bangladesh’s last national election issues.

  • Future of Rohingyas lies in their “return with full restoration of rights”
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