Rohingya voice doubts over repatriation plans 

Myanmar Foreign Secretary Myint Thu speaks to journalists during his visit at a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on October 31, 2018. (AFP / Suzauddin Rubel)
Updated 02 November 2018

Rohingya voice doubts over repatriation plans 

  • Myanmar’s Foreign Affairs Secretary U Myint Thu visited about 60 Rohingya community leaders at the Cox’s Bazar camps on Wednesday
  • Thu proposed that the Rohingya be kept mainly in two newly built transit camps at Tombru and Nagpura in Mongdu district.

DHAKA: Rohingya refugees at the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps have voiced doubts over repatriation proposals delivered by U Myint Thu, Myanmar’s permanent secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Thu visited about 60 Rohingya community leaders at the Cox’s Bazar camps on Wednesday.

During the meeting, Thu proposed that the Rohingya be kept mainly in two newly built transit camps at Tombru and Nagpura in Mongdu district.

Refugees will stay from two to three days in the transit camps, where they will be offered national verification cards.

Under the proposals the refugees will then be sent to a newly built camp at Lapugong, in the north of Mongdu, which can hold up to 30,000 people.

Refugees will be required to stay for five months in the camp before being returned to their original villages. They will also be eligible to apply for citizenship, according to Rohingya leaders.

However, several community leaders who attended the meeting with Thu told Arab News they were far from convinced by Thu’s proposals.

Mohammad Nur, secretary of a Kutupalang camp that houses 57,000 refugees, said: “During the violence in 2012 in Akiab, about 150,000 Rohingya were displaced from their homes and were sheltered at IPD camp in Mongdu. Even after six years these Rohingya are not allowed to go back home.

“So how can we rely on these types of assurance that after five months we will be allowed to go back our original places?

“We have demanded full citizenship, the deployment of international security forces in Rakhine, and the recognition of Rohingya like other ethnic groups in Myanmar. But Thu did not utter a single word regarding these demands,” Nur said.

“If the situation in Rakhine continues in this way and our demands are not fulfilled, I don’t think any of our Rohingya will be interested in going back.” 

Community leaders also claimed that the UN or Bangladesh government had yet to discuss the mid-November repatriation issue with them.

Fairas Al-Kateeb, UNHCR spokesperson in Cox’s Bazar, told Arab News: “We believe (the situation) is not conducive for a return at the moment and that’s why this whole process needs to be reassessed. Any return of the refugees should be handled with dignity and on a voluntary
basis.” 

Highlighting the role of the UN refugee agency in the repatriation process, he said: “It will take time to evaluate. We cannot take decisions under pressure.”

After his visit to the Rohingya camps, Thu told reporters that in February 2018 Myanmar had received a list of 8,032 Rohingya from the Bangladesh authorities.

“We have already verified about 5,000 and from that the first batch will be around 2,000 people and then the second batch will follow,” he said “So, in mid-November we will receive the first batch.

“We are here to meet with people from the camps so that I can explain what we have prepared for their return. Then I can listen to their voices.”

However, Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, told Arab News that his government had already handed over a list of another 22,000 Rohingya to be verified by the Myanmar authority.

More than 1 million Rohingya refugees have been living in the Cox’s Bazar camps since August 2017 following a crackdown by Myanmar army described as a “clearance operation against the insurgent groups.”


Delhi’s air quality turns ‘severe’ as toxic haze lingers

Updated 6 min 47 sec ago

Delhi’s air quality turns ‘severe’ as toxic haze lingers

  • During the last two months, the capital’s 20 million residents have breathed “moderate” to “satisfactory” air only for four days
  • The air quality index was “very poor” on most days this month

NEW DELHI: India’s capital New Delhi was shrouded in a toxic haze for the second straight day on Thursday, and visibility dropped due to cooler temperatures and lower wind speeds that let deadly pollutants hang in the air.
The air quality index crossed 400 on a scale of 500, indicative of “severe” conditions that pose a risk for healthy people and can seriously impact those with existing diseases.
The index measures the concentration of deadly pollutant PM2.5 — tiny particles that can enter the bloodstream. Chronic exposure to such pollutants can contribute to the risk of developing diseases such as lung cancer, according to the World Health Organization.
Federal pollution control officials were tracking the air quality status, Prashant Gargava, member secretary at the Central Pollution Control Board, told Reuters.
The board falls under the federal environment ministry.
Under an emergency action plan, authorities shut down brick kilns and halted all construction activity during the day.
During the last two months, the capital’s 20 million residents have breathed “moderate” to “satisfactory” air only for four days, according to a record of official data compiled by Reuters.
The air quality index was “very poor” on most days this month.
Air quality levels have crossed 400 for a second time this month despite farm fires from Delhi’s neighboring states — blamed by authorities as the primary cause for poor air quality in recent weeks — coming to an end with the onset of winter.
“Now fire counts are almost stopped except in a few routine incidences and hence no contribution to Delhi’s air quality is expected now onwards for the season,” government-run monitor SAFAR said.
The relentless focus on stamping out farm fires every year tends to deflect scrutiny from authorities that are falling behind on cleaning up industry or improving public transport, critics say.
Vehicular exhausts, along with emissions from industry, contribute more than 50% of Delhi’s air pollution on most days through the year, according to official estimates.
SAFAR forecast rain later on Thursday, but added that Delhi’s air quality was likely to deteriorate next week due to foggy conditions.