Dhaka, Nov 16 (UNB) – Unicef has called on the international community to continue working with the governments and civil society of Bangladesh and Myanmar in support of Rohingya children and families, towards longer-term solutions to this crisis, based on respect for and protection of the human rights of all Rohingya people.
“So whilst the situation in Myanmar remains incredibly worrying, we also have concerns for Rohingya children in Bangladesh," said Unicef spokesperson in Geneva Christophe Boulierac at a press briefing in Geneva on Friday.
The spokesperson said education remains high on their list of concerns – particularly for teenagers in the camp.
Their plight was outlined by Unicef in a child alert released in August this year.
"We aim to continue our work providing a network of Learning Centres (LCs) and Child Friendly Spaces (CFSs). There are now more than 1100 learning centres run by Unicef and its partners in the camps reaching 124,000 children with education," said Christophe Boulierac.
He said many organisations that worked in northern Rakhine State prior to August 2017 have been unable to resume activities to the extent desired or previously held due to restrictions by the government of Myanmar.
"Unicef along with the humanitarian community in Myanmar continues to call for unhindered access, including simplified access procedures, to enable the timely and predictable delivery of life-saving aid, protection assistance and build confidence among communities," said the spokesperson.
“This week we have seen widespread reports that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh may be forcibly repatriated to Myanmar, reports that Unicef views with the utmost concern, with particular concern at how such a move would affect children," said Boulierac.
“Our colleagues working in Unchiprang camp in Cox’s Bazar – one of the camps targeted for repatriation – witnessed a large demonstration by Rohingya refugees against the plans for repatriation.
The camp authorities reinforced the message that while they are ready to repatriate refugees on a voluntary basis, no Rohingya refugees will be forced to return to Myanmar if they do not wish to do so," he said.
Unicef welcomed this move by the Bangladesh government.
"Unicef wholly supports the approach of UNHCR in relation to this question. Any repatriation must be voluntary, sustainable, conducted in safety and with dignity," said Boulierac.
He said children should not be separated from their parents or guardians and children should not be exposed to any levels of stress or discomfort during repatriation, nor should any child that is ill be repatriated.
“Unofficial polls conducted by our Unicef colleagues in the camps have all reached the same conclusion. The overwhelming majority of refugees are unwilling to be repatriated unless their safety can be guaranteed," said Boulierac.
The consensus is that while conditions in the camps are tough, they remain preferable to the perceived risks of returning to Myanmar.
For many, the trauma they witnessed during their exodus from Myanmar at the end of 2017 is still fresh in their minds.
“It is easy to understand their concern. Rohingya children and families who remain in Rakhine State continue to face particular hardship and are in need of humanitarian assistance due to ongoing restrictions on their freedom of movement and limited access to essential services such as health and education," said the Spokesperson.
On November 13, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that it continues to receive reports of ongoing violations of the rights of Rohingya remaining in northern Rakhine, which include allegations of killings, disappearances and arbitrary arrests, as well as widespread restrictions on the rights to freedom of movement, health and education.
Dhaka, Nov 16 (UNB) - The Embassy of Switzerland hosted a special event - “Swiss Night” on Thursday in the city to celebrate the friendship between Bangladesh and Switzerland.
The event was attended by a wide range of audience including members of senior officials, the civil society, business, cultural and international community, development partners as well as the Swiss citizens living in Bangladesh.
Welcoming the guests to the Swiss Night, Ambassador of Switzerland to Bangladesh Rene Holenstein noted that Switzerland has been a strong and committed economic and development partner of Bangladesh since its independence.
International Affairs Adviser to Prime Minister Dr Gowher Rizvi attended the event as the chief guest, while Professor Anisuzzaman joined the event as special guest, said the Embassy on Friday.
Both D rRizvi and Professor Anisuzzaman highlighted the strong and long standing bilateral relations that exist between the two countries.
One of the main attraction of the Swiss Night was the announcement and handing over of the “Swiss Embassy Award”.
With a view to recognizing the outstanding personal efforts of one of its partners, the Embassy accorded an Award to DrPu Chaw Nu, the Superintendent of the 250 Bed District Sadar Hospital of Cox’s Bazar, who like many other Bangladeshis played an instrumental role in providing humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya refugees and the host community during the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
The event also offered the guests a Swiss culinary experience; a number of traditional and delectable Swiss delicacies were on the menu.
The guests also enjoyed a riveting performance by the popular Bangladeshi musician Armeen Musa.
The event was organized in cooperation with the private sector, including KUEHNE + NAGEL Ltd, LafargeHolcim Bangladesh Ltd and Novartis (Bangladesh) Ltd.
Dhaka, Nov 15 (UNB) - US Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) Richard Albright has laid emphasis on the value of ‘go-and-see’ visits as recommended by UNHCR to enable Rohingyas to visit their villages of origin and the transit facilities in Myanmar.
This will help Rohingyas and their families make ‘informed choices’ about their voluntary returns, said the US official who completed his six-day Bangladesh visit on Thursday.
Albright visited Rohingya refugee camps and host communities in Cox’s Bazar from November 11 to 13 to assess conditions and speak directly with Bangladeshis and refugees, including some who had just recently arrived from Myanmar.
While in Cox’s Bazar, Albright, accompanied by the USAID Mission Director Derrick Brown, visited the Kunapara Border crossing, Rohingya camps, including the UNHCR Transit Center, as well as a number of facilities providing services such as medical care, food distribution, and nutrition services, implemented by partners, including WFP, Unicef, the government , Red Cross Movement, and IOM.
This visit was part of PRM’s regular travel to monitor humanitarian assistance programs and meet with key government, United Nations, and non-governmental organisation stakeholders.
The US has provided more than $345 million to assist Rohingyas and host communities in Bangladesh since the start of the current crisis in August 2017.
Besides, the US has contributed 40 percent of the total contributions to-date to the 2018 Joint Response Plan, said the US Embassy here.
The USA commended the government of Bangladesh’s generosity in keeping its borders open to Rohingyas and hosting the more than 700,000 that have arrived since the outbreak of violence in Rakhine State in August 2017.
It also appreciated Bangladesh’s continued efforts to ensure humanitarian assistance reaches the affected population, saying that they are following developments closely regarding joint plans of Bangladesh and Myanmar to repatriate approximately 2,000 Rohingyas.
The US said they agree with UNHCR’s assessment that conditions in Myanmar are not yet conducive to returns.
Full access to Myanmar is needed to understand the conditions in the areas of return and to allow refugees and internally displaced persons to make an informed choice about returning, it said.
The US welcomed the Bangladesh government’s continued commitment to informed, voluntary, safe, and dignified returns and giving UNHCR the lead in the repatriation process.
Dhaka, Nov 15 (UNB) - Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali on Thursday said the Rohingyas living in Bangladesh will not be repatriated to Myanmar forcibly.
“There’s a negative campaign that Bangladesh is forcing the Rohingyas to go back to their homeland. Why should Bangladesh force them to leave the country as it has given them the shelter? Question doesn’t arise to send them back to Myanmar forcibly,” he said.
He came up with the remarks while talking to reporters after briefing diplomats on the ongoing Rohingya repatriation process.
Ali said Japan has proposed to take camp heads (Majhi) to Rakhine state with the help of UNHCR and the UN to assess the situation there and the government is working on this proposal, said the minister.
Replying to a question whether Rohingya repatriation has been ‘postponed’, he said it could not take place as they declined to go back home today.
The minister, however, did not give any specific answer when he was asked when the repatriation will begin again.
The minister said they briefed diplomats about the announcement of the new date of the national election and the Prime Minister’s talks with different political parties and alliances, including the ones with BNP’s alliance Jatiya Oikyafront that happened twice.
He said the foreign envoys seem to be happy over the progress on the election.
Ali said they also talked about the unexpected incident that took place at Nayapaltan and the diplomats are aware of it.
He said they discussed the repatriation of Rohingyas that was scheduled to begin today.
The Foreign Minister said Bangladesh has long been making efforts to have a solution to the Rohingya problem in a peaceful manner through discussions. “We’re still trying to do so.”
He said India has already built 250 houses for the Rohingyas who will be repatriated in Myanmar. “They informed us they’re going to build 500 more houses.”
Besides, Ali said, China is also constructing 1,000 houses in Myanmar for the Rohingyas to be repatriated there.
He said they urged both India and China to build the houses at the places from where the Rohingyas had been evicted.
Replying to a question, the minister said some countries are interested in sending their election observers to monitor the national election here, and they suggested them to approach the Election Commission.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, UN resident coordinator in Dhaka Mia Seppo said the United Nations welcomed Bangladesh’s decision to stick to the principle of Rohingyas’ voluntary return to Myanmar as the country demonstrated it today by not sending Rohingyas to their country against their will.
“It’s Myanmar’s responsibility to make sure Rohingyas have enough trust to return to their homeland, and to have enough trust to believe what have happened to them would not be repeated,” she added.
The UN resident coordinator also said it is not the responsibility of Bangladesh government to create conditions conducive to the safe return of Rohingyas to Myanmar.
Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the Foreign Minister briefed them about the recent efforts to develop a political consensus for holding an inclusive election.
He said they were also briefed about the repatriation process of the displaced people from Rakhine state in Myanmar, and obviously this is a highly complicated process.
“As far as we’re concerned, India has called for the safe, speedy and sustainable return of the displaced persons,” Shringla said.
He said their country has also been working with the Bangladesh government in ensuring the repatriation takes place in a manner that is appropriate.
Shringla said their country has built prefabricated houses in the Rakhine State from where Rohingyas have come from in order to facilitate the repatriation.
He said India has already provided relief materials for Rohingyas thrice, and they will also send blankets, sweaters and solar panels to the Rohingya camps during the winter.
“We believe you have to start from somewhere and you have to certainly begin the repatriation process in a voluntary manner. But at the same time, a way must be worked out to facilitate the repartition at the earliest,” the Indian envoy observed.
Sought his comment on the postponement of the repartition process, he said there are some other plans and some other efforts in this regard.
Cox’s Bazar, Nov 15 (UNB) - Despite all the preparations from the Bangladesh side, the scheduled Rohingya repatriation did not take place on Thursday as Rohingyas are unwilling to go back.
“The Rohingya repatriation has been halted as they don’t want to go back to Mayanmar,” said Mohammad Abul Kalam, Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) under the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, while talking to reporters at Ukhia Kutupalong camp on Thursday afternoon.
“We gave them a time from 2pm to 4pm to take decision and wait there, but no one agreed to go back. The process will resume when the Rohingya people will agree,” said Kalam, a government spokesperson.
Rohingyas in different camps staged demonstrations expressing their unwillingness to return to their homeland although Bangladesh and Myanmar have completed all the necessary preparations to repatriate 150 of them on Thursday afternoon.
Earlier, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin the first batch of repatriation on November 15 with 150 individuals each day until November 30, and a list of 2,260 Rohingyas, including 450 Hindus of 485 families, has been handed over to the Myanmar side.