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. 


India’s top court ends Babri Mosque case hearings

Updated 37 min 44 sec ago

India’s top court ends Babri Mosque case hearings

NEW DELHI: India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday concluded the hearing of the Babri Mosque case, which is built on land claimed by Muslims and Hindus.

The case is to settle a land title dispute between Muslims and Hindus over plans to build a temple on the site. A five-judge bench, led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, is expected to issue a verdict next month.

It is more than 25 years since a Hindu mob demolished the 16th-century mosque, located in the town of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. Nationalists claim Mughal emperor Babur demolished an ancient temple in order to construct a mosque. Once the mosque was pulled down, rioting and violence broke out across India and thousands were killed.

The primary agitator behind the riots, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), emerged from the bloodshed with its reputation enhanced and proceeded to expand its political footprint across the country. 

“The matter is to be decided on three grounds. One count is the legal battle, that is, whose land is this,” Delhi-based political analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay told Arab News. “The second ground is the matter of faith from the Hindu side. Regardless of the legality of the land, it is a matter of faith, which cannot be proven in a court of law and belief cannot be disputed. The third is a matter of tradition. Now the court has to decide which side of the argument it is going to rest its matter on.” 

The case was also a test for the Indian judiciary, he said, adding: “Besides, the BJP will exploit the situation either way. If the verdict goes in their favor they will claim victory, if not then they will exploit the Hindu sentiment for a new mobilization.”

In 2010, the Allahabad High Court ruled that the site of the razed mosque would be divided between Hindus and Muslims, with two-thirds being allocated to Hindus, who would be allowed to keep a makeshift temple they had constructed there. Both sides, however, challenged the order and the ruling was suspended.

In March this year, Gogoi set up a three-member mediation panel to resolve the contentious issue. The panel failed in its mission to reconcile the warring parties.

In August, he decided to hold daily hearings of the case and, on Monday, wound up all the hearings from 14 petitioners.

Gogoi retires from his post next month and has expedited the process so he can deliver the verdict before he steps down. 

The Hindu petitioners pleaded on the grounds of faith. They argued that the dispute concerned the faith of the majority community and that the matter could not be treated as a normal civil dispute. Muslim petitioners said they were the original titleholders of the land and therefore it belonged to them.