Dhaka seeks int’l support for Rohingyas relocation in island

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DHAKA : Bangladesh today sought international supports for planned relocation of Myanmar’s Rohingya refugees at Thengar Char island turning it as their makeshift abode with better humanitarian assistance and minimize adverse impacts of their influx in southeastern region.

“In order to ensure humanitarian assistance to the Myanmar Nationals, the Government of Bangladesh has decided to relocate this (Rohingya) population to Thengar Char,” a foreign office statement quoted foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali as telling foreign envoys in Dhaka in a briefing.

The minister, it said, requested the bilateral, UN and other international partners to render their support in implementing the relocation plan.

He particularly sought the foreign assistance in developing Thengar Char, an island next to Hatia Island in the Bay of Bengal, for the Rohingyas and transporting them to “the new place of their residence”.

According to the statement, Ali made the request as he briefed the members of the diplomatic community on the situation of Myanmar refugees and undocumented Myanmar nationals at the State Guest House Padma.

Ali, it said, told the envoys that apart from the adverse socio-economic, political, demographic, environmental, and humanitarian impacts the presence of a huge number of refugees exposed southeastern Cox’s Bazar and adjacent districts to a security situation. “Networks have emerged in this area for the purpose of human trafficking and smuggling of narcotics,” he said.

The statement said nearly 60 ambassadors or High Commissioners, heads of missions and representatives of diplomatic missions including office of UNRC, IOM, UNHCR and other UN agencies attended the briefing.

Prime minister’s political affairs adviser HT Imam, state minister for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam, the cabinet secretary, principal secretary to the prime minister and the foreign secretary were present.

During the briefing, the minister apprised the diplomatic community of the government steps for Myanmar refugees and the undocumented Myanmar nationals “who entered Bangladesh to flee persecution and communal violence in the Rakhine State of Myanmar”.
He said the Rohingya population now appeared to be over 4,00,000 with the fresh arrival of some 69,000 refugees while they were living mainly in two registered camps in Cox’s Bazar and several makeshift settlements.

The minister said since the existing accommodation arrangements in the Cox’s Bazar district for the Myanmar refugees and undocumented Myanmar nationals were “already over-stretched, arranging shelters for the new arrivals has become a new challenge for the authorities”.

He expressed the hope that it would help the Myanmar refugees including undocumented Myanmar nationals to have better access to the humanitarian assistances.

“To make the place (Thengar Char) habitable, the government plans to build necessary infrastructure including shelter, schools, hospitals/health centers, mosques, roads etc and he added that the relocation will take place only after the development activities are completed,” Ali to the diplomats.

He also hoped that he would be able to lead the diplomatic community to visit the place once the infrastructure was in place.

The statement said Dean of Diplomatic Corps the Brazilian Ambassador, the US Ambassador, the Saudi Ambassador, UNRC highly praised the government and its people for hosting this population for decades and rendering necessary humanitarian support to them.

The Saudi ambassador, it said, particularly referred to the presence of Myanmar population in the Kingdom and “explicitly stated his Government’s support to Bangladesh”.

“The representatives of diplomatic community in general expressed their readiness to help the government implement its relocation plan as and when it is finalized,” the statement said.

But, it said, the foreign envoys simultaneously expressed their views that the ultimate solution lied in the repatriation of these refugees to their homeland and also assured their full support in this regard.

Ali also mentioned about successful repatriation of around 236,599 Myanmar refugees through an agreement negotiated during 1991-92.

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