IDs offer the Rohingya hope amid dire Eid celebrations

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A panoramic view of the squalid Rohingya camps at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh which is the largest refugee settlement of the world at this moment. (Photo: Shehab Sumon, Arab News)
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A panoramic view of the squalid Rohingya camps at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh which is the largest refugee settlement of the world at this moment. (Photo: Shehab Sumon, Arab News)
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Rohingya refugees from Myanmar waiting for food aid in a refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. (Shutterstock)
Updated 12 August 2019

IDs offer the Rohingya hope amid dire Eid celebrations

  • Completion of registration is expected by end of the year

DHAKA: More than half-a-million Rohingya at Cox’s Bazar have received identity cards to ensure better access to humanitarian aid in refugee camps.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Bangladeshi government initiated the procedure in June 2018 to store necessary information about the Rohigya people in one database.

This comprehensive registration work has been underway in all refugee settlements at Cox’s Bazar. On an average, about 5,000 refugees are registered every day on seven different sites. More than 550 local staff were recruited to facilitate the registration process.

UNHCR has engaged a number of community representatives, including imams, elders and teachers, to explain the benefits of registration among refugees. Outreach teams of refugee volunteers also go into the community to explain and encourage the registration process.

“This registration aims to establish and secure the identity of individuals and families by collecting basic biographical information. Biometrics such as fingerprints and iris scans are also collected for individuals aged 5 years and above to help verify identities,” said Louise Donovan, a UNHCR spokesperson at Cox’s Bazar.

“Information on family composition, specific needs and protection risks are also gathered. This data is stored on a secure server and on the basis of the information gathered, individual ID cards are issued to all refugees aged over 12,” Donovan added. All children under 12-years-old are included on their parents’ ID cards.

She described the identity card as “extremely important” for the Rohingyas as it is the “first official identification document that they have owned.”

The registration cards record Myanmar as the country of origin. This establishes the right of the refugee to return home when they feel the conditions are safe. However, the registration exercise is not linked to repatriation.

With the aid of the biometric data, UNHCR launched the Global Distribution Tool in one of the refugee camps last week.

“Through verification of fingerprints or iris scans, this tool speeds up distributions and is fraud proof. It can be used by partners to ensure that there is no overlap in assistance and that nobody is left out. It will continue to be rolled out in more settlements in the coming weeks,” said Andrej Mahecic, a UNHCR spokesperson.

“This will help the aid agencies in humanitarian response as no one will be able to fraudulently claim for aid. We will forward the same information to the Myanmar authorities for their verification of repatriation,” Mohammad Shamsuddoja, additional commissioner at the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC) of Bangladesh told Arab News.

He added that these identity documents will help authorities protect the Rohingyas from illegal migration through preventing the distribution of fake Bangladeshi passports.

HIGHLIGHT

The UNHCR and the Bangladeshi government initiated the procedure in June 2018 to store necessary information about the Rohingya people in one database.

Rohingyas throughout Cox’s Bazar welcomed the documentation process.

“It has given me an identity as Myanmar national. It also contains my family links. Now with this document, Myanmar authorities can easily verify me as a resident of Rakhine,” said Fokan Ullah, 53, a refugee from the Kutupalang Rohingya camp.

Refugee Monowara Begum, 34, said: “This identity card has eased my life at the camps. Now, I don’t need to wait a long time in the queue to receive monthly food aids for my family.”

The authorities expect to complete the registration process by the end of the year. More than 1.1 million Rohingyas have been living in the squalid camps at Cox’s Bazar since August 2017.

Amid dire uncertainty for future, the Rohingyas at Cox’s Bazar are preparing for the Eid-ul-Azha, the second largest Muslim festival, scheduled to be observed on Monday. For many, it is going to be their third Eid celebration at the refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Authorities in the country have taken preparations to make the Eid more colorful for the refugees.

“From different NGOs and benevolent entities, we have received around 4,000 cattle to be sacrificed on the Eid day. We will distribute the meat among the 210,000 families so that the refugees can celebrate the true spirit of this Eid-ul-Azha,” Mohammad Shamsuddoja, from the RRRC told Arab News.

This initiative from Bangladesh has inspired enthusiasm among the Rohingya families.

“In this refugee life we receive rice, lentils, vegetable oil and some other daily needs as food aid. But there is no opportunity to have fish and meat. My children have been waiting for last one month for this Eid day as we knew that cattle will be sacrificed in the camps” said Rahmat Ali, 46, a refugee from the Balukhali camp.

Taslima Khatun, 27, a mother of two, has expressed her frustration over the camp life on the eve of Eid festivals.

“Eid days were full of festivity during our days at Rakhine. On Eid-ul-Azha, I used to sacrifice cattle for my family and shared it with the neighbors. Unfortunately, destiny has brought me here today in this miserable condition of camp life,” Khatun said.

“However, due to savings from our daily needs, I managed to buy two new dresses for my sons. The little boys were really happy with their gifts,” she added. 


Civilians, soldiers clash leaving 127 dead in South Sudan

Updated 5 min 6 sec ago

Civilians, soldiers clash leaving 127 dead in South Sudan

  • The violence in Tonj began after several armed youths got into a disagreement with soldiers
  • An initial armed confrontation was brought under control, but local youths subsequently mobilized for an attack on the army position

JUBA: Clashes between soldiers and civilians during a disarmament exercise in the central South Sudanese town of Tonj have left 127 dead, the army spokesman said Wednesday.
Major General Lul Ruai Koang told AFP that the fighting erupted on Saturday as security forces carried out an operation to disarm civilians in the area which has seen deadly inter-communal clashes.
More than six years after a civil war broke out in the country, and in the absence of a functioning government, many communities are flush with weapons, which they keep for protection or defense against cattle raids.
The violence in Tonj began after several armed youths got into a disagreement with soldiers. An initial armed confrontation was brought under control, but according to Koang the youths mobilized others for an attack on the army position.
“On the latest, the number of those killed, I can confirm to you that it rose to 127,” Koang said, adding that 45 of those killed were security forces and 82 were youths from the area.
A further 32 soldiers were injured.
Koang said two military officers involved in “triggering the clashes” had been arrested, and that the situation in Tonj had calmed down.
South Sudan is emerging from a six-year civil war that left 380,000 dead and millions displaced, and disarmament is a major stumbling block.
Experts have warned against operations that coerce people to lay down their guns without proper planning, as some communities could find themselves unable to protect themselves after their weapons are removed.
“The clashes should be an opportunity to rethink the approach to disarmament. What is the point of removing guns without addressing what drives folks to arms themselves?” Geoffrey Duke, head of the South Sudan Action Network on Small Arms, said on Twitter.
“We can take guns away this week & they buy a new one next week (as) long as they still see the need to have (one).”