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Three years on: what’s next for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh?
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.
Myanmar frustrating repatriation efforts — Says Foreign Secretary
In the face of Myanmar’s strategy of doing nothing about restoring normalcy in Rakhine, Bangladesh is demanding the international community to create basic services, safety, security and livelihood options for the Rohingyas who would return to Myanmar.
Myanmar is doing what’s needed to frustrate repatriation efforts, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen told a webinar on the Rohingya Crisis: Western, Asian, and Bilateral Perspectives. Center for Peace Studies (CPS) of South Asian Institute of Policy and Governance (SIPG) at North South University organised it in partnership with the High Commission of Canada to Bangladesh ahead of the third anniversary of Rohingya influx today.
”With the recent clearance operations by Tatmadaw against the Arakan Army in Rakhine and the election in November, we have actually hit an impasse in terms of the repatriation process,” Momen said. Some 750,000 Rohingyas fled a brutal military crackdown since August 25, 2017 and took shelter in Bangladesh, joining some 300,000 other Rohingyas who had fled earlier waves of violence since the 1980s. Over the last three years, two attempts of repatriation failed as Rohingyas refused to return.