By The Daily Star

Dhaka urges int’l community to help hammer out sustainable solution to Rohingya crisis

Bangladesh has urged the global community to be more aggressive to help thrash out a sustainable solution to the Rohingya crisis.

“Global leadership and international organisations have to be more active to compel Myanmar to make arrangements for the Rohingya return,” Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said yesterday.

“They [global leadership] also have responsibilities. We have appealed to them to be more aggressive and take initiatives to address the crisis,” he told reporters after a meeting with foreign diplomats and representatives of the UN and other international bodies in Dhaka.

It’s not a problem for Bangladesh only, but for the entire world too, he noted.

Asked about the international community’s response, he said they lauded Bangladesh for the way it is handling the crisis.

“The whole world is recognising what we have done,” Momen said referring to comments made by the foreign diplomats at the meeting.

He also communicated to the international community that Myanmar has been playing a blame game after the second attempt to repatriate Rohingyas failed.

None of the 1,276 Rohingyas of 339 families, interviewed by the UNHCR, volunteered to return to their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine State on August 22.

A similar repatriation bid also failed on November 15 last year as the Rohingyas said they had no guarantee of citizenship, safety or freedom of movement.

Since August 25, 2017, more than 743,000 Rohingyas fled violence in Rakhine and took shelter in Bangladesh. They joined some 300,000 others, who had fled previous waves of violence in Rakhine and took refuge in Cox’s Bazar. The coastal district is facing economic, environmental and social challenges due to the huge influx of refugees.

Momen came down hard on Myanmar for its August 22 press release in which it squarely blamed Bangladesh for what it said was the failure to send back the displaced people.

“Myanmar claimed that Bangladesh didn’t comply with the arrangements. In that context, we told the international community that we did all we could do.

“It is Myanmar’s responsibility, not ours, to convince the Rohingyas to return to their homeland voluntarily. They didn’t go to Myanmar because it didn’t play its due role,” he mentioned.

“Our responsibility is to arrange logistics. And we have done that. Myanmar gave a list of 3,450 Rohingyas and we immediately gave it to the UNHCR to learn about their willingness to return home. Representatives of Myanmar and China were also involved in the entire process. They have seen it.”

The foreign minister further said all the arrangements made by Bangladesh are transparent.

Referring to Myanmar’s claim that it created an environment conducive to Rohingya return in Rakhine, Momen said, “The Rohingyas don’t trust Myanmar. Myanmar should allow the UN and other international agencies to visit Rakhine State, and see their arrangements.

“Take the leaders of the Rohingya community and show them what you have done,” he said pointing at the Myanmar authorities.

“They [Rohingyas] are worried because they were persecuted there. They want safety, security and free mobility. Myanmar has repeatedly assured us that if the Rohingyas return [to Rakhine], they will ensure these.”

Myanmar should be accommodative on those demands and enhance its trustworthiness, the foreign minister said.

Asked about China’s fresh move to arrange a trilateral meeting between Bangladesh, Myanmar, and China, he said the date and the venue were yet to be fixed.

Momen also said the new Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh, Li Jiming, had a meeting with him at the foreign ministry yesterday and assured him of a more constructive role by Beijing in the Rohingya repatriation.

“The Chinese leaders agree that the repatriation of the Rohingyas is the solution. They say Myanmar has created the problem and it has to solve it. China is with us.”

Asked if the world community is shifting focus from the Rohingya crisis, he replied in the negative, and said they are supporting Bangladesh and the global opinion is in its favour.

Bangladesh has received a little more than a third of $920 million required for providing humanitarian assistance to the refugees this year.

“Foreign aid usually comes towards the end of the year. The same could happen this time too,” Momen said.

Asked about the allegations that some NGOs are discouraging Rohingyas to return to Rakhine, he said the government will take action if it finds evidence of such activity by any NGO.

On claims of presence of armed groups inside the camps, he said the government has no information about it.

He, however, said the authorities recently learnt about a group that made some sharp weapons at a camp.

“We are collecting more information on the group. They will be brought to book,” Momen said.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam and Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque were also present at the briefing.