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ROHINGYA GENOCIDE REMEMBRANCE DAY — Three years on: what’s next for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh?
By Prof. Dr. Nasir Uddin is a cultural anthropologist and a professor of anthropology at the University of Chittagong, Bangladesh.
After August 25, 2017, headlines across the world were dominated by the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing to Bangladesh. This continued for almost a month after Myanmar security forces launched a deadly crackdown, or ”clearance operation”, targeting the minority population from Rakhine state. A 444-page report prepared by the UN’s Independent Facts Finding Commission confirmed that more than 725,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh, at least 10,000 Rohingya were killed, hundreds of women and girls were raped (mostly gang-raped), and around 392 Rohingya villages were partially or fully destroyed.
Since then, Bangladesh has become home to 1.1 million Rohingya refugees, including those who have fled previous bouts of violence as well as new arrivals. Kutupalong refugee camp, which covers an area of 13 kilometres, has become the largest refugee camp in the world for hosting 700,000 Rohingya refugees in a single camp. Today marks the third anniversary of the Rohingya influx in Bangladesh, but the solution to the Rohingya crisis has not been found yet.
The Rohingya community living in Bangladesh are frequently portrayed in two ways—national and international human rights bodies focus on their everyday struggle for food and water supply, sanitation, healthcare, housing, education, cooking materials, childcare, maternity support and daily essentials; whilst the host community often criticise the easy access of refugees to support from national and international aid agencies. There are also increasing concerns regarding the growing degradation of the local ecology, rapid deforestation from using firewood, mounting illegal border trade, encroaching of grassland for livestock rearing and more. These issues are gradually eroding the space of coexistence between the host community and refugees.
Besides, growing tensions in connection with inter-group and intra-group conflicts as well as militant activities in the refugee camps, mounting cases of trafficking, and worries of reduced aid due to decreasing international support, are increasing the mistrust between the Rohingya and the host community, which is some cause for concern.
During the last three years, two repatriation attempts were made. The first one was on November 15, 2018, and the second one was in August 2019, but they failed mainly due to three reasons. Firstly, Myanmar’s continued reluctance and unwillingness to bring the Rohingya back. There were no convincing and tangible preparations taken by Myanmar in accordance with the ”Arrangement on the return of displaced person from Rakhine State” signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar in January 2018. ##