Bangladesh suggests ‘island country’ as solution to refugee crisis . . .
Since the Myanmar military crackdown on Rakhine State in 2017, which led to the exodus of 743,792 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh, the community has borne the brunt of politicking, discrimination, and human rights violations. The government of Buddhist-majority Myanmar has refused to recognize Rohingya as citizens or even as one of its ethnic groups, rendering the vast majority stateless. Struggling to accommodate and tend to the needs of the 913,981 refugees who have arrived at Cox’s Bazaar since the 1970s, Bangladesh proposed relocating some of the refugee families to Bhasan Char, an island that is hours away from the mainland. Proposed initially in 2015, the plan was criticized by the UN and global human rights groups due to the island’s propensity to flood.
Safe haven turned dangerous . . .
While Bangladesh has arguably provided a safer haven for Rohingya refugees, problems have grown significantly since the 2017 influx. Refugees lack basic rights such as education, face monsoon-related health and hygiene issues, have restricted communications, and are targets of rape and trafficking. Tensions have been rising, particularly after the death of a local Bangladeshi youth leader in Cox’s Bazaar in August that led to the death of six Rohingya refugees at the hands of Bangladeshi forces. Given the grim circumstances, 100 families (7,000 refugees) have agreed to move to the island in the hopes of a better life. The Bangladeshi government says the island has been equipped with flood protection embankments, as well as proper housing infrastructure, schools, and mosques.
The growing community of stateless people . . .
Efforts to repatriate the Rohingya refugees have failed. While Bangladesh has approved a few Rohingya to return, most have refused the offer for fear of their lives and safety. Marzuki Darusman, the head of a UN fact finding mission on Myanmar, has also warned that “there is a serious risk of genocide recurring” against the estimated 600,000 Rohingya who still live in the Rakhine State. Similarly, in the Indian state of Assam, thousands of residents have been rendered stateless by the Indian government by way of exclusion from the National Register of Citizens. If unable to prove their citizenship by December 2019, these stateless people will be moved to detention centres. Since 2018, Canada has dedicated C$300 million to international assistance for the Rohingya crisis, however, its position on the growing trend of statelessness in the world is not clear.
- Associated Press: Bangladesh to start relocating some Rohingya refugees to island in late November, December
- Associated Press: UN mission head says risk of genocide recurring in Myanmar
- Government of Canada: Canada’s response to the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh