Floating an alternative idea for Bashan Char, an island in Noakhali district, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Sunday said it could either be a resort or good place for homeless people instead of relocating Rohingyas there.
“We can think of an alternative instead of sending Rohingyas there. This is my personal thinking and there has been no decision from the government yet,” he told reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Sharing his experience of recent visit to Bashan Char, Dr Momen said this is a very beautiful place having a nice lake and other facilities. “So beautiful place it is!”
Mentioning economic activities there, the Foreign Minister said it would be better if other people are sent to Bashan Char instead of sending Rohingyas only.
He said there are high and huge dams around the area.
Earlier, the Foreign Minister said Bangladesh would not relocate Rohingya people to Bashan Char if all concerned think that would be a problem for them.
Bangladesh is hosting around 1.1 to 1.2 million Rohingya people in Cox’s Bazar district and there is a fear that there might be landslides during the upcoming monsoon causing casualties, according to officials.
The Foreign Minister recently visited Bangabandhu Shilpanagar, Matarbari power plant (under construction) and Bhasan Char.
State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Md Enamur Rahman, BEZA Executive Chairman Paban Chowdhury and senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were present during the visit.
“It’s amazing!” said Dr Momen describing what he saw and mentioned that the government wants to increase investment, export and diversify the export basket.
Three United Nations (UN) agencies along with the government of Bangladesh on Sunday launched the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy Plus Livelihoods (SAFE Plus) project to mitigate deforestation and improve livelihood opportunities in Cox’s Bazar.
SAFE Plus is a joint project among the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the World Food Programme (WFP) to address environmental degradation through avenues such as distribution of Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) and stoves, reforestation, and improved access to food production through livelihoods programming.
The LPG stove and gas distributions lessen the need for people to collect firewood, causing further damage to the environment, said the UN agencies mentioning that the reforestation activities rehabilitate unique forest reserves and protect natural resources.
The livelihoods and self-reliance programming bolsters food production and business opportunities for the host community through which they can benefit economically.
The three-year project was designed in partnership with government agencies to increase collaboration between several sectors.
“My ministry is delighted to be working with the UN to address the environmental issues in Cox’s Bazar, and we urge development partners to further support this,” said Senior Secretary at Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief Md Shah Kamal.
At the agreement signing ceremony, the Additional Secretary and UN Wing Chief at the Economic Relations Division (ERD) Sultana Afroz reconfirmed the support of the government for the SAFEPlus project as it addresses the priorities of the government in Cox’s Bazar.
Additional Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Md. Mizanur Rahman stressed, “SAFEPlus programme should continue as long as Rohingyas are residing in Cox’s Bazar.”
FAO Representative in Bangladesh Robert Simpson said SAFEPlus capitalises on the technical capacities of the three UN agencies and government partners to meet the evolving needs of the people of Cox’s Bazar.
“It’s expected to have significant multiplier effects -- from improved food and nutrition security, to sustainable management of natural resources, increased livelihood opportunities, and strengthened social cohesion.”
Chief of Mission of IOM Bangladesh Giorgi Gigauri said they are delighted to announce SAFEPlus as a programme that addresses both the human and the environmental needs of the refugees and host community. “In addition to cutting household expenditures, SAFEPlus promotes smokeless homes, making them healthier and safer.”
Country Representative for WFP Richard Ragan said protecting the environment and improving livelihood opportunities are keys to ensuring food security for people in Cox’s Bazar.
“By working together with other UN agencies, we’re ensuring we’ve a comprehensive and well-rounded programme that addresses the underlying causes of environmental degradation whilst simultaneously improving livelihoods opportunities for people in Cox’s Bazar.”
Throughout this year, SAFEPlus will reach households in the host community with a livelihood programme while technical support will be provided to farmers to increase the production of high-demand vegetables, and reforestation activities will continue.
China is giving 500 sets of what it calls, the ‘most advanced kits’, to Bangladesh to identify coronavirus as a gesture of goodwill and strong faith that Bangladesh has in China in winning the battle against COVID-19.
“Even at its most difficult times, China never forgets to lend a helping hand,” Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming said at a meeting with Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday.
He said the embassy just ordered 500 test kits from Beijing Genomics Institute to help enhance Bangladesh’s capacity to detect coronavirus. The kits will be handed over to Bangladesh on Tuesday.
“These are real-time fluorescent RT-PCR kits for detecting the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and are the first such donation to any country from China,” Deputy Chief of Mission and Minister (Counsellor) of the Embassy Yan Hualong told UNB after the meeting.
He said more such kits will be provided if any case is confirmed in Bangladesh.
Foreign Minister Momen said China has been very helpful to Bangladesh throughout the process and recalled Chinese government’s support in bringing back 312 Bangladesh nationals from Wuhan city, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.
He said the Bangladeshis returned home after 14 days of observation.
“We’re in touch [with China],” he said, referring to Prime Minister Sheiklh Hasina’s recent message to the Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Coronavirus Knows No Boundary
Ambassador Jiming said coronavirus knows no boundary, nationality or race and with each action of kindness and mutual help, the people of China and Bangladesh will be further rallied in confrontation of the epidemic.
He said they are also receiving donations from many local organisations and individuals who are keen to provide whatever help they could to the Chinese people.
The ambassador said the Chinese government has been offering positive cooperation and assistance in effectively responding to Bangladesh’s concerns.
Also in the public health sector, he said, the Chinese government provided US$670,000 three days ago under the South-South cooperation to help reduce maternal mortality rate in Bangladesh.
“All of these speak volumes of China-Bangladesh partnership of strategic cooperation,” Ambassador Jiming said, adding that it is during difficult times like this that the true strength of friendship between Bangladesh and China is revealed.
He said this year is a critical historical juncture for both the countries as China is going to eliminate absolute poverty and become a moderately prosperous society while Bangladeshi is celebrating the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and on its way to become a middle-income country by 2021.
“If we see this sudden outbreak as the final obstacle between where we are and where we are heading to, then it is clear that together we shall triumph over it and reach our destination with renewed confidence and friendship,” said the Chinese Ambassador.
Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, Bangladesh’s support has been extraordinary, he said.
The embassy has been receiving letters of sympathy from various eminent quarters of Bangladesh, including from Foreign Minister Dr Momen.
To fight further spread of the new virus outbreak in China and globally, and protect states with weaker health systems, the international community has launched a $675 million preparedness and response plan covering the months of February through to April 2020.
“My biggest worry is there’re countries today who don’t have the systems in place to detect people who have contracted with the virus, even if it were to emerge,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
“Urgent support is needed to bolster weak health systems to detect, diagnose and care for people with the virus, to prevent further human to human transmission and protect health workers.”
The Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan (SPRP) for the new coronavirus lays out activities and resources needed by international health organisations globally, including WHO, to implement priority public health measures in support of countries to prepare and respond to the virus for a period of February-April 2020.
Medical team members of Gansu Provincial Maternity and Child-care Hospital pack luggage before leaving for Wuhan in Lanzhou, northwest China's Gansu Province.Photo:Xinhua
Coronavirus outbreak has infected more than 69,000 people globally and killed over 1,660 people. The virus has spread to more than two dozen countries and affected global trade.
Ambassador Li Jiming had urged everyone to remain alert instead of creating panic and spreading rumours, noting that no Chinese national here and no Bangladesh national in China is infected with coronavirus.
The Chinese Ambassador also expressed displeasure for what he said overreaction from countries like the USA and Australia to the situation.
"Let general people be alert but don't create panic. No panic, no rumour, and be rational," Ambassador Li Jiming told reporters at the Embassy adding that there is no need for “overreaction” to the situation.
Saudi Arabia has deported 5,500 Bangladeshis from the kingdom since the beginning of this year and 145 of them were sent back on Saturday.
The latest batch of Bangladeshis was sent back on a Saudi Airlines flight that landed at Dhaka airport just after Saturday midnight.
Md Shahidul Islam, one of the deportees, said he had gone to the kingdom three months ago for driving job but was sent back empty-handed without any reason.
Brac Migration Programme provided emergency help to the returnees with the assistance of the expatriate welfare desk.
Shariful Hasan, who heads the migration programme, said 5,500 expatriates had been sent back from Saudi Arabia since January – many of them within the first three months.
At least 300 of these returnees are women.
Last year, 64,638 Bangladeshi workers had been sent back home from various countries, according to government data. Of them, 25,789 were deported from Saudi Arabia.
Last year, 700,159 Bangladeshis found jobs abroad. And the majority of them, 399,000 or 56.99 percent, had gone to Saudi Arabia, according to the government.
Bangladeshis working abroad sent home $18.355 billion last year. Of the amount, 19.87 percent or $3.65 billion came from Saudi Arabia.
Mentioning that Shamima Begum, a British woman who left Britain as a schoolgirl to join Islamic State in Syria and got her British citizenship revoked, has no relation with Bangladesh, said Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen reiterating that she will not be allowed to enter Bangladesh.
“If Shamima wants to come to Bangladesh, we’ll in no way allow her. Bangladesh won’t accept such a militant. We’ve no relation with her,” he said while distributing scholarships of Moazzem Fatema Trust in the city.
In February 2015, Shamima, then aged 15, left her home with two other teenagers, Kadiza Sultana, then 16, and Amira Abase, then 15, and travelled to Syria to join ISIS.
She was found nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.
The government of the United Kingdom revoked her citizenship on account of her radicalisation in line with the ISIS outfit in Syria.
Recently, Shamima lost the initial stage of her appeal against the Home Office’s decision to revoke her UK citizenship.
A unanimous judgment by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) found against Shamima, now 20, on three preliminary grounds, including that she had not been improperly deprived of her citizenship. The judgment prevents her from returning to London.
On February 20 last year, Bangladesh confirmed that Shamima, now 20, is not a Bangladeshi citizen and there is no question to allow her to enter Bangladesh.
About Bangladeshi citizens stuck in China in the wake of coronavirus outbreak, the foreign minister said the 171 Bangladeshi students will be brought back home gradually.
He also said the government is thinking about shifting homeless people to Bhasan Char in Noakhali where massive development work is being unleashed. “Without sending Rohingyas there, an alternative should be considered as the environment is fine there,” he added.