Momen indicated adjustments to the World Bank proposal keeping repatriation a priority

FM Momen on Rohingya crisis: Repatriation is the only solution, not integration

FM Momen on Rohingya crisis: Repatriation is the only solution, not integration

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has reiterated the government position against any long-term program by the World Bank (WB) for the integration of Rohingyas into Bangladesh but indicated some adjustments to the proposal.

Adjustments might be made with the World Bank proposal with Bangladesh giving its priority to repatriation of the Rohingyas, he said on Monday.

“We’ve dropped all ideas [from WB proposal] that do not match with our own philosophy that’s repatriation,” Dr Momen told reporters, adding that there will be an MoU if the WB agrees with Bangladesh’s proposal.

The Foreign Minister said the WB has undertaken a long-term program for 16 countries which are hosting refugees and they will provide money from a Tk2,000 crore fund.

“Rohingyas are not refugees here. They’re persecuted and displaced people …they’re taking shelter here on a temporary basis,” Dr Momen said.

Earlier, the foreign minister told UNB that the government has taken a very strong stance against the idea floated by the WB that apparently suggests integration of Rohingyas into Bangladesh giving them all the rights like Bangladesh citizens.

“We took a very strong stance. We didn’t like it and we opposed it strongly. We conveyed it,” said Dr Momen.

The WB came up with a program as part of its Refugee Policy Review Framework globally for refugee host countries through the Economic Relations Division (ERD).

The foreign minister said integration of Rohingyas in Bangladesh is not the solution but they will have a better future only when they are repatriated. “They should go back. That’s the only way-out.”

The foreign minister said they might face some pressure from the WB in terms of getting other loans but will still stick to prioritizing repatriating Rohingyas.

He indicated that the UNHCR may also refer to it as a condition to go to Bhashan Char for resuming their operational activities.

Momen said the WB is saying effective steps should be taken to identify, prevent and mitigate social tensions and risk of violence between the displaced people and host community, building good relations with them and to employ them in local works.

He said the WB authorities are saying Rohingyas should have the right to work and free mobility; and birth, marriage, divorce and death certificates should be issued for the Rohingyas like Bangladesh citizens. “Naturally, we do not accept those ideas. They [the World Bank] are willing to give money for these if we integrate them.”

As per the WB ideas shared with the ERD, the Rohingyas should have access to the local labour market, including business opportunities the same way Bangladesh nationals have with the same payment facilities.

On education for Rohingyas, there is a proposal to provide education in Bangla language so that they can be absorbed in the local market. However, Bangladesh wants education for Rohingyas in Burmese.

“Their [the World Bank] program is fully related to reintegration of these people with the host country. Naturally, we don’t want it,” Momen said.

Bangladesh does not want anything that might lead to a possibility of Rohingyas’ presence in Bangladesh for a longer period with an opportunity to live with locals in a more integrated way having freedom of mobility.

Bangladesh has been hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasan Char since military crackdowns in 2017 started driving the ethnic minorities out of Myanmar.

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