12:00 AM, March 09, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:27 AM, March 09, 2018

Political commitment has to be there

Says UNHCR representative in Dhaka on refugee issue, calls for addressing conflicts that trigger the crisis

Photo: Star

The UN refugee agency chief in Bangladesh has called for addressing the conflicts that trigger refugee crisis and create heavy burdens on the host countries.

“We need to address the issues that trigger displacement. Political commitment [of the UN members] has to be there,” said Andrew Mbogori, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangladesh.

He said the agency faced some situations when it felt helpless in addressing refugee crisis.

“We can only go to the member states to say we have done this and this much needs to be done,” Andrew said at a discussion at the BIISS auditorium in the capital.

The foreign ministry and Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) jointly organised the programme on Global Compacts for Migration and Refugees.

The discussants observed that the world is going through a critical period of time when many conflicts in various parts, including Syria, Yemen, Myanmar and Libya, have created huge refugee crisis. But many countries denied hosting refugees.

They also said rising number of people were moving from one country to another for socio-economic and political reasons, but they often faced exploitation amid lack of any comprehensive global mechanism to ensure their protection.

However, much of the discussion focused on the Rohingya crisis that has created huge pressure on Bangladesh, and on the fact that the UN has so far not been able to take effective measures against Myanmar from where some 700,000 Rohingyas fled atrocities since August 25 last year.

Prof Imtiaz Ahmed of Dhaka University said, “There is clear evidence of genocide in Rakhine. Even if 10 people are killed, it is genocide.”

The UN has not been able to take Myanmar to court yet, he added.

UNHCR Representative Andrew said although the Rohingya refugees created huge pressure on Bangladesh, the country expressed solidarity with them despite its own challenges.

He said the UN agency has been working on a global compact on refugees, including a mechanism to share the burden of refugees equitably.

Mia Seppo, UN coordinator in Bangladesh, said the international community is committed to ensuring human rights for people across the world, and has been continuously raising voice for ensuring rights of Rohingyas.

“We are calling for unfettered humanitarian access to Rakhine, for the UNHCR to be the lead agency in the repatriation of Rohingyas and for implementation of the Rakhine commission's recommendations,” she said.

Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque said a proposal from Bangladesh on a Global Compact for Migrants to the UN in 2016 resulted in adoption of New York Declaration for Migrants and Refugees.

While the UNHCR is mandated to protect the refugees' rights, there is no global body to look after the rights of migrants, irrespective of their legal status, he said.

He hoped for ratification of Global Compact for Migrants in December this year.

Shahidul said the UN members would determine if the compact would be legally-binding or not.

Gervais Appave, special adviser to the director general of International Organization for Migration, said although human migration had been disorderly over the years, migration governance has now become increasingly important.

Ethical and fair recruitment is one of the key factors for the wellbeing and rights of the migrants globally, he added.

BIISS Director General Maj Gen AKM Abdur Rahman also spoke at the prgoramme, attended by UN officials, diplomats from home and abroad, academics and civil society members.