Rohingya resettlement in third country not a wise idea: Experts

Rohingya resettlement in third country not a wise idea: Experts
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The Rohingya genocide day on August 25 brought to the fore diverse suggestions for a sustainable solution to the Rohingya crisis. Two similar proposals, however, stand out. One was from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the other was from the Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh, Ito Naoki.

In a statement, Blinken said in solidarity with Bangladesh and other Rohingya-hosting countries in the region, the US will increase the resettlement of Rohingyas.

"As an essential component of an international, comprehensive humanitarian response, we are working to significantly increase the resettlement of Rohingya refugees from the region, including from Bangladesh, so that they can rebuild their lives in the United States" -- were his exact words.

At an event, Ito Naoki said in parallel to repatriation, it is also vital to consider third-country resettlement that is one of the permanent solutions and a way to share the burden of the refugee crisis among the international community.

Third country resettlement is not a solution at all. This will make the Myanmar junta happy because they don't want the Rohingyas to return.

— Prof Imtiaz Ahmed Director of Centre for Genocide Studies at DU

Since 2008, 54 families and 200 people, including the Rohingyas, were resettled in Japan, he said, adding, "I hope we can consider further possibilities of the Rohingya people's resettlement in Japan with the guidance of UNHCR."

However, international relations analysts say such public statements of third country resettlement without making any figures will not help the Rohingya repatriation, rather it will only work in favour of the Myanmar junta.

Experts said some 600,000 Rohingyas are facing genocidal acts. With news of resettlement possibilities being picked up by the media in the US and Japan, more Rohingya people are expected to flee Myanmar and seek shelter in Bangladesh and other countries.

"Third country resettlement is not a solution at all. This will make the Myanmar junta happy because they don't want the Rohingyas to return," said Prof Imtiaz Ahmed, director at the Centre for Genocide Studies under the Dhaka University's International Relations Department.

He said it was not clear why the two countries made a similar statement on third-country resettlement. Third-country resettlement is more appropriate if there is a war situation in a country, which is not the case for the Rohingya people.

"We need to be cautious of such a move. The previous records suggest that the US, Canada and some European countries gave shelter to only a few thousand of the Rohingya people, mostly from Malaysia and Thailand," said Prof Imtiaz.

"Even if we consider that the US and Japan accept a few thousand of the Rohingya people, it does not make much difference when there are 12 lakh Rohingya people currently living in Bangladesh," he added.

According to a state department report submitted to the Congress on Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2022, more than 9,000 Rohingya have resettled to the US over the past decade, primarily from Malaysia.

According to Nay Say Lwin, co-founder of the Free Rohingya Coalition (FRC), Canada and Europe have resettled only about 2,500 Rohingyas.

"If the developed countries want to help the Rohingya people, they should provide scholarships for Rohingya youths to fund their higher education so that they can build their community," he told this correspondent from Germany.

Seeking anonymity, another Rohingya activist said he fears the Rohingya people from the Rakhine State may flee to Bangladesh and other Southeast Asian countries with the US and Japan making such statements.

Contacted, a foreign ministry official requesting anonymity said the US and Canada had made a similar proposal of resettling some Rohingyas in 2017-18, but Bangladesh did not agree.

"If they want to resettle a big number of the Rohingya people, then we can consider," he said.

Analysts say the most important task by the international community is to create real pressure on Myanmar to improve conditions in Rakhine State for Rohingya return, but that is absent.

"We would like the developed countries to set a deadline for Myanmar to amend the constitution or impose comprehensive sanctions," Prof Imtiaz said.

"The western countries are stressing Myanmar's restoration of democracy, and not so Rohingya repatriation. They should focus on Myanmar, not Bangladesh," he added.

Nay San Lwin said the bilateral engagement between Bangladesh and Myanmar is not working as Myanmar has strong support from China.

"I would, therefore, propose a multilateral engagement, including the major world powers to deal with Myanmar on the Rohingya issue," he said.