Sunday, 31 May 2020

Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh: Envoys of Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Swiss and Australia in Bangladesh who visited two Rohingya camps on Friday expressed distress over the camp condition, observing that the basic rights of Rohingya refugees were not being met, reported in Financial Express.

UNHCR, Bangladesh organized the visit. The envoys said “health, security and education of the refugees in these two camps are very poor.” They were also of the opinion that the refugees should be allowed to move freely.

Swedish Ambassador Britt F Hagsrom pointed out that the security for women and children in the camps are bad. "The women are afraid of being sexually harassed."

About the high birth rate among the refugees, Swiss Ambassador Rapold said “in order to understand the importance of the family planning, the refugees need education.”

"In many ways their (refugees’) basic rights are not met," said Norwegian Ambassador Ms Aud Lise Norheim.

“Australian High Commissioner Fosket said, "It is a confinement for the refugees." "The condition of the camps needs constant upgrading," he said, adding "Housing condition is poor and people are not happy."

Asked whether the refugees should be granted permanent resident permits, the envoys opined it is for the Government of Bangladesh to decide.”We are in favor of voluntary repatriation…nothing but voluntary repatriation is unacceptable."

Asked what would be their course of actions, they informed that they would send reports to their respective capitals with recommendations.

The Norwegian Ambassador, however, said, "For us as the international community the issue of refugee camps in Bangladesh is not high in Bangladesh is not high on agenda." "But to find a solution we will put the issue high on the agenda to draw international attention," she added.

Answering to a query, the envoys said as part of international community they are also exerting pressure on the military government of Burma to take the Rohingyas back. They, however, admitted that it is very difficult to talk to the Burma government, as they do not listen to the international community, stated in Newstoday.

About the Rohingyas living at the outskirts of Teknaf without refugee status, the envoys stressed the need for treating them humanly.

UNHCR country representative Christopher Lee, who also accompanied the envoys, said if the government of Bangladesh agrees donors are there to help provide these people with a better place with sanitation.

The envoys further said that the lack of facilities for secondary level education of children of refugees the UNHCR and EU Commission have been asking the government to initiate steps for secondary level education for the refugees’ children. But, government officials said the MoU between the UNHCR and governments provide that Rohingya children can have education only up to class V.

“A generation of the Rohingya children is being deprived of education,” said Norheim, the Norwegiam ambassador.

The Swiss envoy regretted the way the refugees are living in the camps. She stressed they should have free movement and scope for in come generation activities. They are living here for a long and “it is also difficult for us to provide funds for so long,” she noted.

Asked what is to be done if neither Bangladesh accepts the Rohingya refugees permanently nor Burma agrees to take them back, the Australian high commissioner said it could be thought of only if such a situation ever arose.

Presently, 20,984 Rohingyas are now living in the camps. And 236,599 Rohingyas have been repatriated since 1992. An influx of the Rohingyas from Arakan, Burma followed religious and political persecution by the ruling Junta.

The rate of repatriation drastically fell with only 92 sent back in the first half of last year. The process totally stopped in July creating concern among government officials involved in it.