The UNHCR has sought official access for the identification of all undocumented Myanmar nationals, widely known as Rohingyas, living in Bangladesh to meet their urgent humanitarian needs in an effective manner.
The government ‘is aware of our requests’, UNHCR representative Shinji Kubo told New Age at his office on Sunday, adding, ‘we are yet to get any reply in yes or no.’
The UNHCR was ‘deeply concerned’ at the highly uncertain situations surrounding the newly arrived civilians of Myanmar in Bangladesh, he said.
At least 74,000 minority Muslims, out of 92,000, who fled indiscriminate killing, rape, arson and violence by Myanmar security forces in Rakhine state, entered Bangladesh since October 9, 2016, according to a UNHCR estimate.
They were living in improvised shelters and much more needed to be done in terms of shelter, health, water and sanitation to avoid untoward situation during the rainy season, said the UNHCR official.
Lack of formal access to the new Rohingya arrivals has made it hard for the UNHCR to independently verify identity of the victims and provide official information, officials say.
In the absence of formal access to the new arrivals, UNHCR has continued to provide its assistance through the arrangement inside the camps where the registered refugees ‘are also sharing’ whatever they have with the new arrivals who ‘are seeking’ protection and assistance inside the camps.
Some 3,00,000 Myanmar nationals have been living in a refugee-like-situation in makeshift shelters in Cox’s Bazar for years.
A total of 33,148 registered refugees of Myanmar have been living in registered camps for several years.
The Myanmar government did not maintain its commitment to repatriation of over 9,000 refugees from Bangladesh in 2014.
On relocation plan by the government, the UNHCR recommends that any move must be carried through a consultative and voluntary process and the feasibility of the proposed site must be assessed.
The UNHCR officials think a better alternative ‘is to register and document the displaced people from Myanmar’ in Bangladesh ‘no matter where they are or when they arrived’.
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics recently conducted a headcount of undocumented Myanmar nationals living here.
The UNHCR officials say a proper documentation may help the government know ‘who is on its soil’, and help humanitarian agencies deliver assistance to those who need it in an effective and efficient manner.
Despite generations of history in Rakhine, Muslim minorities are referred to as ‘Bengalis’ by the military-dominated Myanmar administration and majority Buddhist community regard them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.