Waking up to reality

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Bollywood actress and Unicef Goodwill Ambassador Priyanka Chopra among Rohingya children at a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar.

Very few believe that return of Rohingyas will be viable any time soon

Bangladesh has shown great generosity in opening its borders for Rohingya. Though Bangladesh and Myanmar signed the repatriation agreement on November 23, 2017, very few believe that safe and voluntary return will be viable any time soon. Myanmar is largely responsible for the delay.

Amid no visible progress over Rohingya repatriation, Myanmar has assured Bangladesh of accelerating verification process to start repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh to Myanmar.

Though Permanent Secretary at Myanmar Foreign Ministry Myint Thu made the assurance during the second joint working group meeting in Dhaka on May 17, a Myanmar government statement says it wants to start the repatriation of only 1101 verified Rohingyas out of 8,032 persons received from Bangladesh. Myanmar also wants to take earlier verified 778 Muslims and 444 Hindus.

Bangladesh, however, emphasized “verifiable concrete information” from Myanmar so that it could be shared with the Rohingyas in Bangladesh for building their confidence to go back to Northern Rakhine in Myanmar.

Bangladesh handed over a list of 1,673 Rohingya families (8,032 individuals) to Myanmar on February 16 to start the first phase of repatriation of Rohingyas to their homeland in Rakhine state.

The Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting discussed all issues related to safe, dignified and sustainable return of the forcibly displaced Myanmar residents.

The Bangladesh side laid emphasis on creating conducive environment in Rakhine State including safety and security of the returnees, rebuilding villages, access to livelihood, freedom of movement and so on.

Terming Rohingya repatriation very complex and difficult, Bangladesh said it is trying to work together with Myanmar for quick repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh to Myanmar.

“You know such repatriation is always very complex and difficult matter. But we feel this repatriation starts as early as possible. We don’t have any disagreement over it,” said Foreign Secreatry M Shahidul Haque. Both Bangladesh and Myanmar sides, he said, realised the need for quick repatriation of Rohingyaa.

We understand Myanmar side could not give any satisfactory reply on many issues that Bangladesh side raised in the JWG meeting.

Since Myanmar could not complete verification of the first list, there is no hurry to place second list. We do not know how much time they will take to verify others mentioned in the first list.

World needs to care about Rohingyas

Bollywood actress and Unicef Goodwill Ambassador Priyanka Chopra, now on a four-day visit (May 21-24), has sought support for Rohingya children saying these kids are their future and the world needs to care about them.

“These children are at the forefront of this humanitarian crisis, and they desperately need our help,” she said while visiting Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar district. “The world needs to care. We need to care,” she added.

Hours after her arrival here in Dhaka on May 21, she left for Cox’s Bazar by a private airlines flight.

She said the world saw horrific images of ethnic cleansing from the Rakhine State of Myanmar. This drove nearly 700000 Rohingyas across the border into Bangladesh – 60 percent are children.

“Many months later, they are still vulnerable, living in crowded camps with no idea when or where they will ever belong…even worse, when they will get their next meal,” she wrote on her verified Facebook page.

And, she added, as they finally start to settle and feel a sense of safety, monsoon season looms, threatening to destroy all that they have built so far.

“This is an entire generation of children that have no future in sight. Through their smiles I could see the vacancy in their eyes,” Priyanka Chopra wrote.

Rohingya children’s future looks bleak

Priyanka Chopra says Rohingya children can have a chance at a future with help from all because right now, she thinks, their future is bleak.

“For a lot of the Rohingya children, this ordeal will leave them scarred, physically and emotionally, for the rest of their lives. With your help, maybe these children can have a chance at a future,” she said during her second day visit to Rohingya camps on Tuesday.

Priyanka reiterated her call that the world needs to care. “We need to care. Please lend your support.”

“Across the river is Myanmar. It’s empty now, but a few months ago this area, known as “Sabrang,” was filled with hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar,” she wrote on her verified Facebook page.

Their trip here, she said, was filled with many hardships and tremendous danger and many of them made their journey on foot, walking for days through the hills, then floating across the Naf River or the Bay of Bengal on make shift boats.

“Many of them injured, pregnant, elderly, etc. Their ordeal didn’t end here...after entering Bangladesh, they would often have to wait for days, sleeping in the open fields with no food or water, for aid workers to reach them,” she wrote.

Priyanka visited a number of Rohingya camps in Teknaf upazila of the district. She first visited the camp set up at Hariyakhali Anchor point under Sabrang union of Teknaf upazila.

Hariyakhali is known as the entrance point from which these refugees entered Bangladesh from Myanmar.

  • DhakaCourier
  • Vol 34
  • Issue 46

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