Bangladesh bans two aid agencies from Rohingya refugee camps

Some 740,000 Rohingyas were driven over the border to Bangladesh by a Myanmar military crackdown on the Muslim minority. (AFP)
Updated 05 September 2019

Bangladesh bans two aid agencies from Rohingya refugee camps

  • Move comes amid growing impatience from Dhaka about the presence of the refugees in the country
  • About 740,000 Rohingyas were driven over the border by a military crackdown on the Muslim minority

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Bangladesh on Thursday said it has banned two aid agencies from Rohingya camps in the country’s southeast, alleging they were telling refugees to reject repatriation to their homeland in Myanmar.
The move came amid growing impatience from Dhaka about the presence of the refugees in the country, two years after some 740,000 were driven over the border by a military crackdown on the Muslim minority.
The latest repatriation attempt by Bangladesh and Myanmar two weeks ago, the second in less than a year, failed with not a single refugee volunteering to cross the border back home.
US-based Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and local organization Al-Markazul Islami were accused by the government’s NGO Affairs Bureau of “instigating” the stateless minority against the recent repatriation attempt.
Kamal Hossain, the government administrator of Cox’s Bazar district where the refugee camps are located, said Dhaka had issued a notice for the NGOs to immediately stop their activities across the country.
“The administration is taking action accordingly to the issued order,” he said, adding that the NGO Affairs Bureau also ordered bank transactions by the two agencies to be halted.
More than 130 aid agencies work in the three dozen squalid camps in Cox’s Bazar, where the 740,000 Rohingya fled to, joining some 200,000 others already living here.
Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen last week said Dhaka would crack down on aid agencies if they “do something going beyond their terms and references.”
The Rohingya have refused to go home until Myanmar gives them guarantees of safety and citizenship status.
Tensions have ratcheted up in the camps in recent weeks as refugees marked the two-year anniversary of the 2017 exodus.
Four refugees have also been killed in the fallout over the murder of local ruling party official Omar Faruk, which police blame on Rohingya hitmen.
Bangladeshi authorities on Monday also ordered operators to shut down mobile phone services in the camps amid the outbreak of violence.


Sri Lanka turns former military air base into third international airport

Updated 18 October 2019

Sri Lanka turns former military air base into third international airport

  • President Sirisena termed the opening of Palaly Airport for commercial flights “a significant landmark of the development program commenced after the conclusion of the conflict.”

COLOMBO: The Palaly Airport, a former military air base, has been turned into Jaffna International Airport, the third gateway to the island.

The new airport was inaugurated by the island’s President, Maithripala Sirisena, while Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet ministers also witnessed the ceremony.

The refurbished airport, costing $13.8 million, has a 1,400-meter long runway to facilitate ATR 72 aircraft, which can carry 70 passengers. It will later be expanded to 3,500 meters to handle large passenger aircraft such as the Airbus A320 and A321.

Located approximately 16 km north of Jaffna, Palaly was a Sri Lanka Air Force base and a domestic airport. The airport was built by the British Royal Air Force during the WWII.

After independence, Palaly Airport was used as the second international airport of the country for flights to southern India before the civil war began, almost 40 years ago.

President Sirisena termed the opening of Palaly Airport for commercial flights “a significant landmark of the development program commenced after the conclusion of the conflict.”

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said the upgraded Jaffna International Airport marked a “turning point” in Sri Lankan aviation, which would be “an asset for the entire nation.”

“The airport will deploy regional airliners and be elevated to an Asian travel destination,” the premier said.

“The airport, which is expected to accommodate direct flights between Sri Lanka and India, will contribute toward promoting the tourism industry in the north. This will play an important role in the economic growth and overall development of the country,” he added.  

The service will be made available first for Indian destinations, and later for flights to Australia, China, Japan, the Middle East and some European cities.                                                      

Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Arjuna Ranatunga said Palaly airport was developed into Jaffna International Airport in a very short period of time.

“We were able to overcome the challenge successfully due to the sincere assistance we received from all institutes and stakeholders contributed to the development,” he said.

The minister said that in addition to Colombo and Jaffna international airports, three more airports in Sri Lanka will be upgraded to international airports, such as Ratmalana and Batticaloa.

“The opening of Jaffna airport for regional scheduled commercial passenger operations will undoubtedly enhance the quality of life of people in the area, with improved connectivity and accessibility that the airport brings to the region. It would also help reduce the current congestion at Bandaranaike International Airport and also eliminate the difficulties of the people in the north have in coming to Colombo Airport,” said H. M. C.Nimalsiri, director general of civil aviation.