Work sincerely instead of giving lip service to Rohingya repatriation talks: Foreign minister
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has made an appeal to the international community to work sincerely instead of giving "lip service" to repatriation talks for the Rohingyas.
"There are 1.1 million Rohingyas in the camps of Bangladesh and majority of them are girls and women. It is time for us, the world leaders…we must come forward to repatriate them and reintegrate them in Rakhine and give them a future," he said.
The minister was addressing an International Women's Day event titled "Women in Diplomacy: How are We Doing?" as chief guest. It was organised by the Diplomatic Correspondents' Association of Bangladesh (DCAB) with support of the Bangabandhu Research Centre for Foreign Policy and Diplomacy at the Foreign Service Academy today.
UN Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo, Swiss Ambassador to Bangladesh Nathalie Chuard, Swedish Ambassador Alexandra Berg von Linde, Maldives High Commissioner Shiruzimath Sameer, Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen and other officials of the foreign ministry and DCAB leaders were present.
Momen said when Myanmar has been continuing gross human rights violations for years, some countries who speak aloud for human rights have been continuing businesses, which increased many times over the years, with Myanmar.
"Imposing sanctions on some generals will not work… the international community should go to Rakhine and argue with Myanmar for creating conducive conditions in Rakhine," he said.
The foreign minister said the focus of the international community must be Myanmar, not whether the Rohingyas are sheltered in Kutupalong or Bhashan Char.
"If they stay here for long, there are possibilities of development of pockets of radicalisation. I appeal to all -- no lip service please. We should be more sensitive to Rohingya women," he said.
Momen highlighted the progress made in women empowerment in Bangladesh. About 30 percent of the foreign ministry officials are now female. Presently, there are eight female Bangladeshi ambassadors in different countries.
In response to DCAB member Israt Zahan Urmi's mention in her keynote speech that many of the Bangladeshi female migrants working abroad, especially in the Middle East, face physical, mental and sexual abuses, Momen said the government was working towards reducing such cases.
He said some women rights groups had demanded stopping migration of women as domestic workers to Saudi Arabia. This demand is contrary to the principle of gender equality, he said.
"All have the right to mobility. Our constitution does not discriminate. However, if there are abuses, it is our responsibility to address those," Momen said.
Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen said the tortures of female domestic workers is a serious problem that must be addressed.
He said the ministry now has a policy to send more female envoys to the Middle-Eastern countries so they can better work to protect the migrant women rights. Presently, Nahida Sobhan, one female Bangladeshi ambassador is working in Jordan to help address the challenges of female workers.
Masud suggested changing the mindset of the men in how they treat women colleagues in the workplaces. There must be a culture of respect to women everywhere, he added.
UN Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo said women have special capabilities in peace-making. When they are involved in signing deals or negotiations, they have better chance of making peace because they have natural capacity to listen and speak with empathy.
"Gender equality is beneficial for both men and women," she said.
DCAB honoured Mashfee Binte Shams, secretary (east), the first secretary at the foreign ministry, with a crest at the event, also addressed by DCAB President Pantho Rahman and General Secretary AKM Moinuddin.
Momen asks UNHCR to work in Bhashan Char
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Momen yesterday urged the UN Refugee Agency to work in Bhashan Char, a housing facility under Noakhali. The facility has the capacity of sheltering 100,000 Rohingya. Already some 12,000 Rohingya have been relocated there from Cox's Bazar camps.
The call came when UNHCR's new representative Johannes van der Klaauw presented his credentials to the minister at his office.
"I said you are welcome to work in Bhashan Char," Momen told this correspondent.
UN has been seeking a technical assessment of Bhashan Char project before deciding to start working there. Presently, some 44 NGOs are providing humanitarian assistance to the Rohingyas in Bhashan Char.