Rohingya greet UN refugee day amid doubts on return

Earl R. Miller, US ambassador to Bangladesh, joined activists at Thursday’s rally in Cox’s Bazar to observe World Refugee Day. (Reuters)
Updated 20 June 2019

Rohingya greet UN refugee day amid doubts on return

  • Muted celebrations in crowded Bangladesh camps, home to 1.1m Myanmar exiles
  • Cox’s Bazar — site of the world’s largest refugee settlement — observed the day with programs and festivities

COX’S BAZAR: More than 1.1 million Rohingya exiles in heavily congested camps at Cox’s Bazar observed UN World Refugee Day on Thursday despite continuing uncertainty over their return to Myanmar. 

Since 2000, UNHCR has observed June 20 as World Refugee Day and this year appealed to participants to “take a step with refugees around the world.” 

War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are the main causes of refugees fleeing their countries, with two-thirds of all exiles worldwide coming from five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.

Cox’s Bazar — site of the world’s largest refugee settlement — observed the day with programs and festivities, although there is still no sign of an end to the Rohingya plight. 

A colorful rally at Kutupalang camp was attended by US envoy Earl Miller, UNHCR country representative Steven Corliss and government officials. Later, dignitaries met with Rohingya community leaders and discussed their demands. 

About 750,000 Rohingya have fled their northern Rakhine homeland since August 2017 when a so-called “clearance operation” orchestrated by the Myanmar military forced them to take shelter at Kutupalang camps in Cox’s Bazar. 

In 1977 and 1978, about 200,000 Rohingya sought refuge in Bangladesh after fleeing Myanmar. 

Between 1989 and 1991, an additional 250,000 refugees fled to Bangladesh when a military crackdown followed a popular uprising and Burma was renamed Myanmar. In 1992, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed on a repatriation deal that led to thousands of Rohingya returning to Rakhine. 

The Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh resumed in 2016 when a military crackdown followed an attack on a border post in which several police offers were killed. About 87,000 refugees fled to Bangladesh. 

A repatriation deal was signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar in late 2017, but not a single Rohingya returned. 

Finally, Nov. 15, 2018, was agreed as the new date to start repatriation, but the Rohingya said that conditions made it impossible for them to return. 

Recent violence in Rakhine between the Myanmar military and a militant Buddhist group has cast fresh doubts on the refugees returning in the near future. 

The Rohingya exodus has changed the demographic of Ukhia and Teknaf subdistricts of Cox’s Bazar. 

In 2011, around 500,000 people lived in the two areas. Now more than double that number of Rohingya refugees shelter there, turning the host community into a minority. 

The Bangladesh government and UN aid agencies together asked for $920 million to run humanitarian operations in the camps this year. But only a quarter of this amount has been raised. 

Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, said that authorities are hoping for an increase in funding in coming days. 

“Some big donors such as the EU, UK, Japan and so on are yet to come up with their pledges. I believe it will happen soon and humanitarian operations here at Cox’s Bazar will not decline,” he told Arab News.


Afghan security forces fail to reach ‘Taliban-mined’ site of US military plane crash

Updated 28 January 2020

Afghan security forces fail to reach ‘Taliban-mined’ site of US military plane crash

  • Probe launched into cause of Monday’s incident as Taliban claim responsibility for shooting down jet

KABUL: Afghan security forces have so far been unable to reach the crash site of a US military aircraft which went down during a mission on Monday in a Taliban-controlled area of the country.
An investigation is underway to determine what caused the Bombardier E-11A plane to crash in the Deh Yak district of Ghazni province, about 120 km southwest of Kabul, although the Taliban have claimed responsibility for shooting it down.

“The Taliban have mined the area, and security forces could not make it to the site to retrieve the bodies and recover the aircraft last evening. The Taliban had laid an ambush as security forces tried to reach the site,” Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, head of Ghazni’s provincial council, told Arab News.
He added that other US aircraft had attempted to land in the area overnight but were forced back due to bad weather.
Aref Noori, a spokesman for Ghanzi’s governor, said: “Afghan and foreign forces are preparing a joint plan to go to the site to see what they can do.”
Authorities have yet to determine how many passengers and crew were on board.
Several members of the provincial council said they had heard from locals that four people on board the plane had escaped the site of the crash soon after it came down. However, the reports could not be confirmed by the US military or other officials.
The crash comes amid a push by the Taliban and US diplomats to restart peace talks which are aimed at ending the 18-year-old conflict in the country.