Dhaka, 01 June 2021
A two-member team from the UNHCR Headquarters in Geneva, comprising the Assistant High Commissioner for Protection and the Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, is currently visiting Bangladesh. As a part of their protection-mandate, the team, accompanied by senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, visited Bhashan Char yesterday.
During their tour to Bhashan Char, a large number of Rohingya gathered together and launched a demonstration. At one point, the crowd got agitated and in the process, some of the Rohingyas reportedly got minor injury. Once the delegation left the island, the situation normalized.
The crowd had free and frank interactions with the AHCs and vented out their frustration and concerns over uncertainty vis-a-vis repatriation. In absence of any progress in repatriation, they expressed desperation to get out of the present situation and requested to consider relocation to a third country. The Rohingyas demanded UN’s presence in Bhashan Char to ensure facilities such as education, livelihood activities, skill development etc.They also confirmed to the AHCs that their relocation to Bhashan char was completely on a voluntary basis.
It may be mentioned that in recent times there have been a number of important visits to Bhashan Char including the visits of the OIC Assistant Secretary-General, the 18-member UN team and most recently a group of Ambassadors. During all these visits, the Rohingyas spontaneously and happily interacted with the visiting guests both in informal and formal settings.
The Government of Bangladesh noted with great disappointment that a section of international media and Civil Society Organizations have been continuously campaigning against Bhashan Char and Rohingya relocation with distorted information misrepresenting the facts. Such campaign will undermine the magnanimous humanitarian gestures and the sincere efforts of Bangladesh. Excessive focus on temporary arrangement and undue criticism will only shift the focus from the permanent solution, which lies in repatriation and reintegration of Rohingyas in Myanmar.
It must be remembered that the Rohingyas are Myanmar nationals. Any arrangement for them in Bangladesh; be it in Cox’s Bazar or in Bhashan Char; is purely on a temporary basis until they return to their country. The Rohingyas also want to return to their homeland and all including the UNHCR need to work constructively to that end. The UN is expected to assume their responsibility and operate within their mandate taking into account the ground reality and concerns of the host community. The Government of Bangladesh, on its part, is ready to address any realistic needs and concerns of the Rohingyas.