Rohingya Crisis: Dhaka pins hope on Guterres visit
When Antonio Guterres visited Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar in 2008, it housed only 10,800 Rohingyas. The total number of Rohingya population living in the district was around 27,000. They had arrived there in previous years and were not repatriated to Myanmar like many others.
Ten years down the line, during his visit to the same camp tomorrow, Guterres will see the camp sheltering more than six lakh Rohingyas. Most of them fled to Bangladesh to escape atrocities perpetrated by the Myanmar army in Rakhine State in August last year. Now there are over one million Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar.
The abnormal rise in the number of refugees is indicative of the gravity of the present Rohingya crisis. The crisis has become bigger than what it was 10 years ago.
Seven months have passed since the signing of a deal between Bangladesh and Myanmar, but the repatriation of Rohingyas still remains uncertain.
Amid such a situation, UN Secretary-General Guterres arrives in Dhaka today on a two day visit. He will travel to Kutupalong camp tomorrow to see the severity of the Rohingya situation and UN agencies' engagement in the camps.
Meanwhile, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim arrived in the capital yesterday. He is expected to accompany the UN chief to Cox's Bazar.
Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), also arrived in the city in the afternoon to see ICRC's work in Rohingya camps.
Earlier on Friday, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee reached Dhaka. They are also scheduled to visit Cox's Bazar to meet Rohingyas.
The high profile visits are taking place just two months after a delegation of the UN Security Council, the organisation's most powerful body, had met Rohingyas at the Kutupalong camp.
Dhaka is considering the visits of the UN and WB chiefs as “very significant” as the trips will draw the attention of the global community to Bangladesh and in turn to the Rohingya issue.
“We hope the visits will give an important message to the world community about resolving the Rohingya crisis by ensuring their safe return to their motherland with dignity,” Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Abul Kalam Azad told The Daily Star yesterday.
Guterres had visited the refugee camp on May 27, 2008, as the chief of the UN refugee agency. He met some Rohingyas and had talks with the Bangladesh authorities to find a lasting solution to the issue of around 27,000 Rohingya refugees.
The situation worsened over the years. The persecution and massacre of the Rohingya increased terribly. The UN itself faced stiff opposition from China and Russia, two permanent members of the UN Security Council, to take strong action against Myanmar -- a country ruthlessly killing, raping and driving away a whole ethnic group and denying them citizenship.
After the beginning of the mass influx of Rohingyas in August last year, the UN chief termed the Rohingya refugee crisis a “human rights nightmare”.
UN human rights officials described Myanmar's treatment of Rohingya as a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing. But their concern did not deter Myanmar from persecuting Rohingyas as the influx of refugees into Bangladesh continued amid global condemnation.
During their visit to Cox's Bazar in late April, the UNSC team members had listened to Rohingyas' plight and stories of persecution. The refugees appealed for UNSC help for their safe return home.
The team went back to New York promising the Rohingyas of measures for them. But the fate of Rohingyas, the world's third largest group of refugees, still hangs in the balance.
As per the schedule, officials said Guterres will call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
After the meeting with the PM, he will attend a session on 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda at the PMO.
The UN chief will then visit Bangabandhu Memorial Museum in the capital's Dhanmondi and is likely to visit the Holy Cross Girls' High School in Tejgaon.
He will also meet the United Nations Country Team in Bangladesh at Radisson Hotel in the afternoon. The World Bank chief will meet WB officials in Dhaka at the same hotel.
In the afternoon, Guterres will join a joint get-together of the UN and WB staff members at the hotel.
The PM will host a dinner in honour of the UN secretary general at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in the evening.
Tomorrow morning, the UN chief will leave for Cox's Bazar by a special flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines.
After returning to Dhaka in the evening, he is scheduled to hold a press briefing at Radisson Hotel before leaving the capital at midnight.