Bangladesh should ‘slow down’ Rohingya relocation, says UN official

UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee briefs the media in Dhaka on Friday. (AN photo)
Updated 25 January 2019

Bangladesh should ‘slow down’ Rohingya relocation, says UN official

  • Dhaka plans to relocate 100,000 Rohingya refugees to island 
  • Myanmar forces ‘bleeding’ Rohingya, says UN special envoy

DHAKA: There should be no relocation of Rohingya refugees until measures for their protection are agreed on, a UN official said Friday, adding that the relocation process “could be slowed down a little bit.”

UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee was in Bangladesh assessing the condition of Rohingya refugees, also visiting an island where the government plans to relocate 100,000 of them this year.

Hundreds of thousands of people from the Rohingya Muslim minority have arrived in Bangladesh since a military crackdown in neighboring Myanmar triggered an exodus, straining resources in the impoverished country.

Lee thanked Bangladeshi authorities for allowing her to witness the relocation preparation. 

She urged the government to allow the UN to carry out a full technical and humanitarian assessment, including a security one, before making further plans to house people on the island.

“It goes without saying that no relocation should even be contemplated until the protection framework for any refugees who do relocate is agreed upon,” she said. “To date, there have been no discussions with the humanitarian community on the protection framework for the island.”

The relocation process could be  “slowed down a little bit” unless certain parameters were fulfilled, she added.

Lee urged the government to share a feasibility study that was carried out before building work started on the island. 

The muddy silt islet emerged from the sea two decades ago and is known locally as Bhashan Char.

The government has spent $280 million to make it habitable and protected from high tides during cyclone season.

Lee was skeptical about Rohingya repatriation.

Many of those who fled Myanmar hailed from western Rakhine state, where the UN says the military carried out an ethnic cleansing operation against the Rohingya.

The Rohingya are regarded in Myanmar as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even though many have lived there for generations.

“It is clear that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh cannot return to Myanmar in the near future. Now that the election in Bangladesh has concluded, I encourage the government to begin to engage in longer-term planning and prepare the local population for this reality," she said. “A failure to do so will not only have negative consequences for the refugee population but also for Bangladesh, including most significantly, the host community, who have already given so much to accommodate the refugees.”

She added it would not be “pragmatically feasible at the moment” to repatriate Rohingya refugees to a third country and rejected the idea of establishing a “safe zone” in Rakhine state, which Bangladesh had previously suggested. It was not appropriate, said Lee.

“We have seen in history what happened in safe zones in some other countries. They gathered inside the safe zones and all were killed. The campaign of violence against the Rohingya continues, with the (Myanmar) security forces slowly bleeding the remaining Rohingya population and continuing to force them to flee to Bangladesh,” she said.  

She expressed her concern about the recent trend of Rohingyas coming to Bangladesh through other countries. Around 1,300 refugees have entered from India in the last three weeks.

Lee will submit her findings and observations in a report next month.

LIVE: Davos 2020 Day One - Thunberg slams elites, Trump hails US economic rebound

Updated 22 min 12 sec ago

LIVE: Davos 2020 Day One - Thunberg slams elites, Trump hails US economic rebound

  • Discussion panels featuring a number of high profile figures from the political, business and civil world.
  • Environment and climate issues on agenda, but Iran and Lebanon expected to feature heavily

The World Economic Forum 2020 started on Tuesday in Davos in Switzerland. Greta Thunberg kicked off the three day forum in a panel discussion on Sustainable Path towards a Common Future.

There will be discussion panels featuring a number of high profile figures from the political, business and civil world.

They will discuss a wide range of subjects including the environment and climate issues, but Iran and Lebanon are expected to feature heavily.

Follow Arab News’ coverage below

13:45 - Bollywood superstar and mental health ambassador Deepika Padukone has a very honest and inspiring conversation with World Health Organization's director-general about her own experiences with mental illness and how the stigma surrounding it can be ended...

In 2017, Padukone spoke vividly about her struggle with depression and the stigma that surrounded it. She also described how she decided to speak out, so others wouldn't have to suffer in the same way she did. Watch the Crystal Awardee speaking earlier at Davos:

13:00 - Saudi Arabia's Minister for Communications and IT Abdullah Al-Swaha has been speaking on a panel about the strategic outlook for Middle East economies. He makes the salient point that if countries want their economies to grow, they must focus on youth, technology and the empowerment of women...

11:30 - US President Donald Trump reverted to his role as salesman Tuesday, telling a gathering of the world's top businessmen in the Swiss Alps that he's led a “spectacular” turnaround of the US economy and encouraged them to invest in America.

He reminded the audience that when he spoke here two years ago, early in his presidency, “I told you that we had launched the great American comeback."

“Today I’m proud to declare the United States is in the midst of an economic boom, the likes of which the world has never seen before,” the president said.

11:00 - Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson delivered a special message from Pope Francis. He called on everyone to remember that we are all members of one human family, and that we have a moral obligation to care for one another.

And he asked for a renewed ethical approach in the forthcoming discussions, including in the discipline of economics.

10:30 - The historian Yuval Noah Harari struck a pessimistic note at the opening of this session on the technology arms race. 

"On the most shallow level it could be a repeat of the 19thcentury industrial revolution, when the leaders had the chance to dominate the world economically and politically... I understand the current arms race as an imperial arms race... You don't need to send the soldiers in if you have all the data on a country," says Harari.

10:00 - In one of the first sessions of the WEF, Greta Thunberg said the voices of science and youth need to be at the center of the conversations on environment and future during “Forging a Sustainable Path towards a Common Future” panel discussion. 

Read more on her speech hereThunberg condemns climate inaction as Trump joins Davos