Rohingya refugees: We will not go back

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Rohingya refugees shout slogans as they protest against a disputed repatriation programme at the Unchiprang refugee camp near Teknaf on November 15, 2018. (AFP)
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Rohingya refugees shout slogans at a protest against a disputed repatriation programme at the Unchiprang refugee camp near Teknaf on November 15, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 16 November 2018
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Rohingya refugees: We will not go back

  • As the Bangladesh government prepared to repatriate the first group of 150 Rohingya, hundreds of refugees protested in Unchiprang camp, denouncing any repatriation without their seven-point demand agenda being accepted

COX'S BAZAR: Authorities in Bangladesh have postponed the Rohingya repatriation indefinitely after the refugees voiced their unwillingness to return to Myanmar.
The authorities overturned the recommendations of the Joint Working Group (JWG), a high-powered body set up to plan the repatriation process.
In line with the JWG schedule, the Bangladesh government had gathered about 150 Rohingya from 27 families at the Ghumdhum border crossing point in Bandarban district for repatriation, the Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner of Bangladesh, Abul Kalam, said.
Kalam, who is also the technical head looking after the repatriation process on the ground, told Arab News that the authorities had been trying to encourage the Rohingya from Unchiprang camp in Teknaf subdistrict to leave with the assembled refugees, but none were willing to return to Myanmar.
“We waited to get the willingness for repatriation from the Rohingya until 4 p.m. But when they were not willing to return at this moment, we could not start the process,” said Kalam.
“The Rohingya will remain here until the next repatriation date is announced,” he said.
Kalam confirmed that no Rohingya would be repatriated against their will. The next repatriation date will be announced after a review of the situation, he said.
As the Bangladesh government prepared to repatriate the first group of 150 Rohingya, hundreds of refugees protested in Unchiprang camp, denouncing any repatriation without their seven-point demand agenda being accepted. Their demands include citizenship rights, freedom of movement, and recognition as Rohingyas in line with the rights given to other ethnic groups in Myanmar.
Protesting refugees chanted slogans: “We won’t go back” and “We want justice.”
Abdus Shukkur, 55, one of the protesting refugees, told Arab News: “I lost three sons and two younger brothers during the military crackdown last year. Now if I go back, the soldiers will kill me. I don’t find any reason to go back at the moment.”
Mohammad Solaiman, 39, another protester, said: “There is no chance of a livelihood in Rakhine. They have destroyed all our assets. What will I do going back there — live in another camp?”

Situation
The UNHCR acknowledged that “the circumstances are not conducive at the moment for (the Rohingya) repatriation.”
Fairas Al-Khateeb, UNHCR spokesperson in Cox’s Bazar, said that according to an understanding with the Bangladesh government, the UN body had been asked to assess the “willingness for repatriation” of all 485 families selected in the first group.
“The assessment is not complete yet. Once concluded, we will share it with the Bangladesh government.”
Assessing the situation regarding refugee repatriation, he said: “We hope things will get better. But I can’t anticipate when this will happen.”
“We always stress willingness and dignity in going back home,” Al-Khateeb said.
Experts and activists monitoring the situation believe future repatriation depends on the Myanmar government’s willingness to create a conducive environment for the refugees.
Amena Mohsin, professor of international relations at Dhaka University, told Arab News: “Myanmar didn’t make any sincere efforts to offer the Rohingya confidence or to create comfort among the distraught refugees. I think without the proper resolution of citizenship issues, Rohingya repatriation will not be possible.”


UN Assembly adopts refugee pact, without US and Hungary

Updated 1 min 52 sec ago
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UN Assembly adopts refugee pact, without US and Hungary

  • The refugee pact was approved by 181 countries
  • Only two voted no — the US and Hungary. Three others abstained — the Dominican Republic, Eritrea and Libya

UNITED NATIONS: The UN General Assembly on Monday adopted by a wide majority a Global Compact on Refugees aimed at improving efforts to manage large refugee movements — but without the support of the United States and Hungary.
The refugee pact, which did not provoke the controversy unleashed over a similar pact on migration, was approved by 181 countries.
Only two voted no — the US and Hungary. Three others abstained — the Dominican Republic, Eritrea and Libya.
Much like the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration — the refugee pact is not legally binding.
The two global agreements stem from the so-called New York Declaration adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly in September 2016, with the goal of better handling migrant and refugee flows worldwide.
The compact — written under the auspices of the Geneva-based UN refugee agency (UNHCR) — hopes to ensure an adequate international response to large-scale refugee movements and extended displacement of refugees.
General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa told AFP the pact would help “strengthen the assistance to and protection of the 25 million refugees globally” and was based on burden — and responsibility-sharing.
“Refugee-hosting countries continue to show extraordinary levels of generosity and commitment to refugee protection,” said Espinosa, who is from Ecuador.
“It’s a known fact that low and middle-income countries host over 85 percent of all refugees. I believe that we must support the communities and states that host refugees.”
In voting no, Hungary said no new agreement was needed. The US said recently that it backed most of the refugee pact, but not the part aimed at limiting detentions of asylum seekers.
Ahead of Monday’s vote, two countries facing massive population flight addressed the assembly.
Syria said the debate should not be politicized and asked the UNHCR to do more to help Syrian refugees return to their war-wracked country.
Crisis-hit Venezuela, which has seen massive flight as its economic quagmire has deepened, urged the assembly to ensure that the new pact did not become a way for other countries to intervene in internal matters.
The document has four key objectives: ease pressure on refugee-hosting nations; improve refugee self-reliance; expand access to third countries for refugees via resettlement; and, support conditions for refugees to go home.
The compact is meant to set up a framework; national and regional solutions are supported, and it discusses financing and possible partnerships, as well as data sharing among nations.
It also includes systems to monitor progress, including a Global Refugee Forum held at ministerial level every four years.
Unlike the talks on the migration pact, the United States remained in the negotiations for the refugee pact.
The final text of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Legal Migration was agreed on in July, and it is to be formally ratified by the General Assembly on Wednesday.
Since July, a number of countries have either quit the pact or expressed serious reservations, including Hungary, Australia, Israel, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Latvia and Italy.
In Belgium, the migration pact sparked the collapse of the country’s coalition government.
About 165 countries reaffirmed their commitment to the migration pact earlier this month in Morocco.