Ensuring security of refugees urgent

In this file photo taken on 16 October, 2017, Rohingya refugees walk through a shallow canal after crossing the Naf River as they flee violence in Myanmar to reach BangladeshAFP

The number of people forced to flee their homes has increased every year over the past decade and stands at the highest level since records began, a trend that can be only reversed by a new, concerted push towards peacemaking, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said on Thursday.

By the end of 2021, those displaced by war, violence, persecution, and human rights abuses stood at 89.3 million, up 8 per cent on a year earlier and well over double the figure of 10 years ago, according to UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report.

Since then, the Russian invasion of Ukraine – causing the fastest and one of the largest forced displacement crises since World War II – and other emergencies, from Africa to Afghanistan and beyond, pushed the figure over the dramatic milestone of 100 million.

20 June was International Refugee Day. Like every year, UNHCR has published the report. This year's theme is 'Right to safety'. Seeking safety is a right and it needs to be upheld for every person. Protecting people forced to flee is a collective global responsibility.

“Every year of the last decade, the numbers have climbed,” said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.

“Either the international community comes together to take action to address this human tragedy, resolve conflicts and find lasting solutions, or this terrible trend will continue.”

Last year was notable for the number of conflicts that escalated and new ones that flared; 23 countries, with a combined population of 850 million, faced medium- or high-intensity conflicts, according to the World Bank.

Meanwhile, food scarcity, inflation and the climate crisis are adding to people’s hardship, stretching the humanitarian response just as the funding outlook in many situations appears bleak.

The number of refugees rose in 2021 to 27.1 million. Arrivals climbed in Uganda, Chad and Sudan among others. Most refugees were, once again, hosted by neighbouring countries with few resources. The number of asylum seekers reached 4.6 million, up 11 per cent.

Last year also saw the 15th straight annual rise in people displaced within their countries by conflict, to 53.2 million. The increase was driven by mounting violence or conflict in some places, for example Myanmar. The conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray and other regions has spurred the flight of millions within the country. Insurgencies in the Sahel drove fresh internal displacement, particularly in Burkina Faso and Chad.

The speed and volume of displacement is still outpacing the availability of solutions for those displaced – like return, resettlement or local integration. Yet the Global Trends report also contained glimmers of hope. The number of refugee and IDP returns increased in 2021, returning to pre-COVID-19 levels, with voluntary repatriation having surged 71 per cent, though numbers remained modest.

“While we’re witnessing appalling new refugee situations, and existing ones reigniting or remaining unresolved, there are also examples of countries and communities working together to pursue solutions for the displaced,” Grandi added. “It’s happening in places – for example the regional cooperation to repatriate Ivorians – but these important decisions need to be replicated or scaled up elsewhere.”

Speaking to Prothom Alo about the matter former foreign secretary and North South University's South Asian Institute of Policy Governance fellow Md Shahidul Haque on Sunday said the issue of refugees went out of sight ahead of Russian-Ukraine war. The war brought the refugee crisis to the fore.

However, although the issue of refugees has come into the discussion, there is no scope to say that refugees from all countries have drawn the same attention.

And although the estimated number of stateless people grew slightly in 2021, some 81,200 acquired citizenship or had it confirmed – the biggest reduction in statelessness since the start of UNHCR’s IBelong campaign in 2014.

Till last year, Bangladesh was 7th among 10 countries that sheltered and saved the people of neighbouring countries.

Around 400,000 Rohingya took shelter before 2017, and on 25 August 2017, showing excuse of militant attack on the army check post, Myanmar army launched crackdown on the Rohingya. Afterwards, about 450,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh from Myanmar. In altogether, there are about 1250,000 Rohingyas in Bangladesh.

Following pressure from the international community, keeping China behind the scene, Myanmar made a repatriation agreement with Bangladesh in November 2017. Despite setting the deadline for repatriation, that couldn't be begun. Despite discussions between two countries through mediation of China, the situation has not been changed. On the one hand, a favourable environment has not returned to the Rakhine state of Myanmar, it is also clear that repatriation is not possible without the consent of Rohingya. Moreover, army coup in Myanmar last year has faded the chance of repatriation.

Former foreign secretary Md Shahidul Haque said after the military coup in Myanmar in February last year, considering the context of Bangladesh, there is a dramatic change in Myanmar.

He said not only in the cities, but people are also building resistance against the military across the country. The fight is now not limited to majority of Myanmar or the Bamar with the minority.

The army is now fighting against the Bamar people. So Myanmar's National Unity Government or NUG has emerged another force..

Meanwhile, NUG in a statement extended their support to Rohingyas. As a result, keeping in touch with the current situation of Myanmar, Bangladesh has to fix its position.

Besides, Rohingyas have to understand that a change has taken place in Myanmar and their future has a link to it. Refusing everything blatantly means going out of track. With the political change that will take place in Myanmar in future, NUG will have an important role. Moreover, the influence the army gaind in the past, there may be a change.