It's temporary arrangement
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam yesterday termed the government's plan to relocate Rohingyas to Thengar char in Noakhali's Hatiya Island a temporary arrangement until their repatriation to Myanmar.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims, who fled to Bangladesh amid persecution by military in Myanmar's Rakhine State over the years, are now living in camps and slums mainly in Cox's Bazar.
“There was a proposal and the government has, in principle, agreed to gradually relocate the documented and undocumented Rohingyas to the char until they are repatriated to their motherland Myanmar. This will be a temporary arrangement on humanitarian ground,” said the minister.
Asked about reports in the international media, he told a press briefing at his office that although registered refugee camps in Cox's Bazar has the capacity to accommodate 30,000 people, more than three lakh Rohingyas are living there in inhuman condition, casting a negative impact on environment and society.
That is why the government has in principle decided to relocate the Rohingyas to a suitable place, he added.
The Rohingyas would get healthcare, education and other facilities, he said, adding, “Currently, at least 10 to 12 Rohingyas live in a small room where hardly three people can stay.”
The state minister, however, repeatedly reminded everyone that this is a very temporary arrangement. “We want Myanmar to take back all their nationals at the earliest possible time.”
Amid persecution and ethnic cleansing in Rakhine state, more than 67,000 Rohingyas have entered Bangladesh since October 9 last year. They are currently living in different camps -- Nayapara, Leda and Kutupalang in Teknaf and Ukhia -- apart from other parts of the country.
According to officials, the number of documented, undocumented and newly arrived Rohingyas could cross 4,00,000. “The government has no plan to give the undocumented Rohingyas refugee status,” Shahriar added.
He said the government's decision to shift the Rohingyas came in the wake of the existing situation. The Bangladesh Army has been given the responsibility of land development and making the area liveable, while the local government would implement the plan.
In reply to a question, he said during implementation of the plan and relocation, Bangladesh might seek support from its foreign friends. Several countries have already offered assistance, while others have asked the OIC to help Bangladesh take care of the Muslim refugees during the OIC foreign ministers' meet in Malaysia on January 19.
Asked about a probable time to start relocation, Shahriar said the plan would not be executed overnight. “It's now at the very early stage and will take a long time to establish housing facilities in a new place.”
He added the government is also discussing some ideas to provide support to Rohingyas and manage their livelihoods through livestock, dairy and agriculture at the planned new camps after making the place liveable with required physical structures.
“Discussion on creating employment opportunities for them is also going on. Poultry and cattle can be provided so that they have some resources for better living,” the state minister observed.
On another question, Shahriar said no nation in the world stood against Bangladesh's stance on the Rohingya issue. “Everybody says there is only one solution -- Myanmar must accept the Rohingyas as its nationals and take them back.”
Meantime, a visiting delegation of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State from Myanmar on Tuesday said providing citizenship to and ensuring the dignity of the Rohingyas is the key to resolving the problems and ensuring a better situation there.
The Cabinet Division at a meeting on January 5 decided to form a “committee to identify illegal intruders from Myanmar.” The meeting was presided over by Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam in the chair
Another committee has been working for the head count of Rohingyas living illegally in Bangladesh and was supposed to submit its report in January. However, the committee has been given three more months to complete the database due to fresh influx.
Locals have been asked to assist the committee to identify the Rohingyas so that they come under the head count.
The divisional commissioner of Chittagong is heading one of the committees. The police commissioner of Chittagong Metropolitan Police, regional commander, BGB, zonal commander, Bangladesh Coast Guard, divisional office head of the DGFI, and deputy commissioners of Cox's Bazar, Chittagong, Noakhali and Bandarban are included in the committee.
There are also separate committees headed by the deputy commissioners of Cox's Bazar, Chittagong and Bandarban. There will be upazila, municipality, ward and union-level committees under these three districts.