Bangladesh prepares for Rohingya repatriations

Bangladesh prepares for Rohingya repatriations
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In this file photo, Rohingya refugees play at Balukhali Refugee Camp in Bangladesh. (AP)
Bangladesh prepares for Rohingya repatriations
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Rohingya refugees work to build a waiting center near a WFP-run relief distribution center at Balukhali camp in Cox's Bazaar on July 20. Cox's Bazar is the world's largest refugee camp. (AN Photo by Shehab Sumon)
Updated 21 August 2019

Bangladesh prepares for Rohingya repatriations

Bangladesh prepares for Rohingya repatriations
  • Dhaka has asked UNHCR for assistance in confirming whether the refugees wish to return to Myanmar

DHAKA: Bangladesh is set to begin Rohingya repatriation on Thursday, with both Dhaka and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) consulting with around 3,450 refugees who have been cleared to return by the Myanmar government.

“We have agreed to the repatriation of 3,450 people on Aug. 22,” said Myint Thu, permanent secretary of Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On July 30, Bangladesh presented a list of 25,000 Rohingyas to a visiting Myanmarese delegation led by Thu.

From this list, Myanmar verified 3,450 Rohingyas for the first stage of repatriation.

Bangladesh had previously produced another list of 30,000 refugees for verification. But only 8,000 were cleared by the Myanmarese authorities.

A similar repatriation attempt failed on Nov. 15 last year when the Rohigyas refused to return, citing the negative environment in Rakhine.

“We have taken all necessary preparations to start the repatriation process on Aug. 22. Two transit camps near the border are ready to be used in the process, but we are not yet sure whether we need to use them during this new attempt,” said Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner.




Rohingya refugees work to build a waiting center near a WFP-run relief distribution center at Balukhali camp in Cox's Bazaar on July 20. Cox's Bazar is the world's largest refugee camp. (AN Photo by Shehab Sumon)

Kalam, the most senior Bangladeshi official on the ground, said that they have improved the security measures at the refugee camps.

“Everything now depends on the decision of the Rohingyas and whether they will agree with the repatriation ideas. Our main concern is to motivate them,” Kalam added.

Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque said that repatriation is one of the most important agendas for his government and Dhaka would encourage them to return to their homeland.

“If they don’t go back, they will be deprived of all rights, not just land rights. For their own interest, I think they should volunteer to go back to their homeland.

“Going back to their own homeland does not mean that we are asking them to forget about the issues of justice and accountability. The process to ensure justice and accountability has already begun and it will continue irrespective of their return,” Haque said.

FASTFACT

A similar repatriation attempt failed on Nov. 15 last year when the Rohigyas refused to return, citing the negative environment in Rakhine.

Dhaka has asked UNHCR for assistance in confirming whether the refugees wish to return to Myanmar.

“UNHCR has begun sharing information across all the refugee settlements. Bangladesh, with UNHCR support, has also started to inform the 3,450 refugees that they have been cleared for return to their country by Myanmar,” Louise Donovan, UNHCR spokesperson at Cox’s Bazar told Arab News.

She added that, in line with standard practice in refugee returns, UNHCR’s role is to ascertain voluntariness and ensure that people have the information they need to make informed decisions.

“UNHCR will confidentially meet those who express an interest in returning in order to consult them on their intentions. Those who express a wish to return will be invited for a second interview to ensure the voluntariness of their decision. They will be asked to complete a voluntary repatriation form,” Donovan added.

UNHCR’s efforts have been hampered by their limited access to Rakhine.

“We will share information on some 70 villages where UNHCR and the UN Development Programme have conducted assessments,” she said.

However, according to UNHCR, refugees have received their “own sources of information regarding the situation back home.”

Syed Ullah, secretary of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, a Rohingya rights organization at Cox’s Bazar told Arab News: “Before any repatriation, the safety of our lives should be ensured. We need the guarantee of citizenship, freedom of movement and recognition as an ethnic minority.

“During last month’s discussion with Myint Thu, we all agreed to have further dialogue to resolve the unsettled rights issues of the Rohingyas. Without solving our burning problems, how can we move forward for repatriation?”

Bangladeshi experts welcomed the fresh attempts to conduct repatriations.

Humayun Kabir, former Ambassador to the US, said that there are many differences over the repatriation issue, but there is a need to find “common ground”  convenient to both parties.

“It is definitely good news that the repatriation issue has return to the forefront of discussion again. We all welcome it.

“But to make the repatriation sustainable, we need to focus on some important issues: Where will Rohingyas stay after the repatriation? Will it be safe? Will they have all the rights like other Myanmar nationals? Both Banagladesh and Myanmar now need to answer these questions,” Kabir said.


Russia detains dozens of Navalny supporters at anti-Putin protests

Russia detains dozens of Navalny supporters at anti-Putin protests
Updated 23 January 2021

Russia detains dozens of Navalny supporters at anti-Putin protests

Russia detains dozens of Navalny supporters at anti-Putin protests
  • The first protests took place in the Far East and Siberia
  • Authorities vowed a tough crackdown with police saying unsanctioned public events would be “immediately suppressed”

MOSCOW: Russian police detained dozens of protesters on Saturday as supporters of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny took to the streets following his call to protest against President Vladimir Putin’s rule.
Putin’s most vocal domestic critic called for mass rallies after surviving a near-fatal poisoning with a Novichok nerve agent and returning to Moscow last weekend following months of treatment in Germany. He was arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport and jailed.
The rallies — planned for dozens of cities across Russia — are expected to be a major test of the opposition’s ability to mobilize despite the increasing Kremlin pressure on critics and the coronavirus pandemic.
The first protests took place in the Far East and Siberia including Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and Chita where several thousand took to the streets, Navalny supporters said.
OVD Info, which monitors detentions at opposition rallies, said around 50 people were detained in 10 cities.
Authorities vowed a tough crackdown with police saying unsanctioned public events would be “immediately suppressed.”
In Moscow, which usually mobilizes the largest rallies, protesters plan to meet in the central Pushkin Square at 2:00 p.m. (1100 GMT) and then march toward the Kremlin.

On the eve of the rallies, Navalny, who is being held in Moscow’s high-security Matrosskaya Tishina jail, thanked his supporters.
“I know perfectly well that there are lots of good people outside of my prison’s walls and help will come,” he said on Friday.
Navalny’s wife Yulia said she would join the protest in Moscow. “For myself, for him, for our children, for the values and the ideals that we share,” she said on Instagram.
Ahead of the demonstrations several key Navalny aides were taken into police custody for violating protest laws and handed short jail sentences to keep them away from the rallies.
The Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said Friday it launched a criminal probe into the calls for unauthorized protests.
A hastily organized court on Monday jailed Navalny for 30 days, and his supporters fear that authorities are preparing to sentence him to a long prison term to silence him.
Navalny’s team this week released an investigation into an opulent Black Sea property allegedly owned by Putin.
The “Putin’s palace” report alleges the Russian leader owns a 17,691 square meter mansion that sits on a property 39 times the size of Monaco and features a casino along with a theater and a hookah lounge complete with a pole-dancing stage.
The two-hour video report had been viewed more than 65 million times since Tuesday, becoming the Kremlin critic’s most-watched YouTube investigation.
The Kremlin has denied the property belongs to Putin.
Many Russians took to social media — including video sharing app TikTok hugely popular with teens — to voice support and urge a large turnout on Saturday.
A hashtag demanding freedom for Navalny was trending on TikTok as Russians flooded the Chinese app with thousands of videos.
Russia’s media watchdog warned online platforms against encouraging minors to participate in the rallies or risk hefty fines.
The watchdog said on Friday that media platforms, including TikTok, YouTube and Instagram, removed content at its request.
Russia’s most popular social network VKontakte blocked groups created to coordinate the protests in different cities.
But a number of public figures — including those who usually steer clear of politics — have spoken out in Navalny’s support.
Navalny, 44, rose to prominence a decade ago and has become the central figure of Russia’s opposition movement, leading large-scale street protests against corruption and electoral fraud.
His arrest drew widespread Western condemnation, with the United States, the European Union, France and Canada all calling for his release.