Early repatriation of Rohingyas top priority: Momen to UN expert

Foreign minister AK Abdul MomenFile photo

Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen on Sunday laid emphasis on early repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar stressing that the prolonged stay of Rohingyas in Bangladesh is increasingly making the situation untenable both for the Rohingyas and the host country, UNB reports.

“Early repatriation of the Rohingyas to Myanmar is our lead priority,” he conveyed the message to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Tom Andrews during a meeting held at State guesthouse Padma.

Momen said the stalemate in repatriation is making the Rohingyas more frustrated and susceptible to unlawful activities like smuggling of drugs, human trafficking and murder.

The foreign minister congratulated Tom Andrews on his important appointment and hoped his success to achieve the mandate of his position which is the human right violation in Myanmar, especially against Rohingyas.

He highlighted the extraordinary humanitarian gesture of prime minister Sheikh Hasina by extending temporary shelters to the huge number of Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMNs) despite numerous constraints and challenges of Bangladesh.

To arrange early repatriation, Momen said, both countries signed three instruments soon after the exodus in 2017 where Myanmar agreed to ensure safe early return of the Rohingya to Myanmar.

He regretted that not a single Rohingya could return to Myanmar despite Bangladesh’s multiple attempts for repatriation since 2017. “Creation of a favourable environment in Myanmar and confidence building mechanisms among the Rohingyas will pave the path for their voluntary and sustainable repatriation.”

He said the presence of ASEAN and UN representatives in Rakhine will contribute to building confidence among Rohingyas to return to Myanmar.

The foreign minister highlighted that Rohingyas are receiving informal education in Myanmar language following Myanmar curricula in Bangladesh through around 3,000 learning centres which would enable them to uphold their tradition and cultural values leading to their reintegration in Myanmar society in return.

He expressed frustration that some unauthorised privately run learning centre, madrasas and even coaching centres run by Rohingyas are promoting radicalism in camps following separate teaching materials and motives.

Momen said, the government has asked to stop those unauthorised activities.

However, the authorised learning centres are continuing the learning activities with the support of UNICEF and INGOs/NGOs following the government’s Covid-related guidelines, the foreign minister said.

Describing the conditions in Bhasan Char, the foreign minister mentioned that Bangladesh has developed the island as a temporary shelter for the FDMNs to de-risk and decongest the camps in Cox’s Bazar spending US$350 million from its own resources.

He hoped that the UN agencies will expeditiously engage to provide humanitarian assistance to the Rohingyas staying there.

The foreign minister underscored that humanities assistance is required but the ultimate solution lies in the sustainable repatriation of the Rohingyas and the international community must work to realise that goal.

He advised the rapporteur to visit Rohingyas living in Myanmar and in other countries in order to carry out his mandate.

Tom Andrews thanked the foreign minister for receiving him and extending all cooperation during his visit.

Describing himself as a “Friend of Bangladesh”, the rapporteur assured Dhaka of working in line with the priorities of Bangladesh for safe and dignified repatriation of the Rohingyas to Myanmar.

He promised to take efforts to visit Myanmar to see the ground realities prevailing there, engage with Rohingyas living in other countries and the humanitarian actors working in Myanmar.