Ambassador Turan, who visited Rohingya camps twice, laid emphasis on collaboration with the international community and donor agencies as the expenditure behind Rohingyas is huge, no matter where they are living. “We would like to see better collaboration and it’ll be much easier to help the Rohingyas.”
“It’s the right of the government of Bangladesh to decide where it’ll host Rohingyas,” Ambassador Turan told UNB in an interview at his office recognising that Bangladesh has invested significantly making Bhasan Char habitable.
A thorough technical assessment by the UN on Bhashan Char is needed to figure out additional costs and challenges in running operations in two separate places efficiently, he added.
The government of Bangladesh invested more than US$ 350 million to develop the island. The 13,000-acre island, the government says, has all modern amenities, year-round fresh water, beautiful lake and proper infrastructure and enhanced facilities.
The Turkish Ambassador, however, said the relocation of Rohingyas should be made voluntary one and that the Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement from December 4th highlights this aspect.
In the face of growing concerns over the extreme congestion in Cox’s Bazar camps and to avert any risk of death due to landslides and other unwarranted incidents, the government of Bangladesh has decided to relocate, in phases, 100,000 Rohingyas to Bhashan Char.
Accordingly, in the first phase, more than 1,600 Rohingyas who expressed their willingness voluntarily for relocation were shifted to Bhashan Char on December 4.
Supporting The Gambia
The Turkish Ambassador said they are supporting The Gambia in regards to a case with the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
“It’s an important international legal proceeding to hold perpetrators accountable,” he said adding that repatriation is the best solution.
The Gambia filed a more than 500-page Memorial, which also includes more than 5000 pages of supporting material, in its lawsuit against Myanmar at the ICJ in The Hague, making its case for how the Government of Myanmar is responsible for genocide against Rohingya.
The Gambia urgently needs US$ 5 million to pay the lawyers while so far US$ 1.2 million has been raised through an OIC fund-raising campaign to support the legal battle.
Bangladesh is one of the contributors to the fund donating half a million US dollar. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Malaysia have also contributed to the fund so far.
Ambassador Turan said though there was a high expectation from Aung San Suu Kyi in her first term in the Myanmar government but she did not make any positive opening keeping the Rohingya repatriation deal unimplemented.
Ambassador Turan said the repatriation deal signed between Myanmar and Bangladesh needs to be implemented to send back Rohingyas to their home in Myanmar.
He said Turkey knows by experience how difficult it is for a country to host a huge number of refugees. “In such a situation, the real leadership is required. Both of our governments have shown the real leadership in dealing with refugees,” he said.
Also read: The Gambia v Myanmar: Proceeding on the merits
According to the UNHCR, there are approximately 3.2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. Turkey also maintains a significant non-Syrian population. Of the non-Syrian population of protection-seekers in Turkey, about 44 percent are from Afghanistan, 42 percent are from Iraq, and 10 percent are from Iran.
Responding to a question on repatriation, he said conditions required for safe, dignified, sustainable and voluntary return of Rohingyas are yet to be created in Myanmar. “The situation is not ripe for repatriation. They cannot go back taking risk.”
Earlier, repatriation attempts failed twice in November 2018 and August 2019 amid Rohingyas' lack of trust in the Myanmar government.
Also read: UN for Rohingyas' free, informed decision on Bhashan Char relocation
Turkish Support to Continue
The Turkish Ambassador has reiterated his country's continued support to the government of Bangladesh over the Rohingya issue.
Turkey was one of the first countries to establish presence in the Rohingya camps to deliver much-needed humanitarian assistance since 2017.
Some of the Turkish agencies and NGOs have been operating in Bangladesh even before the crisis to support the implementation of the priorities set by the government of Bangladesh. Turkey also provides assistance to host communities in Cox’s Bazar.
The Ambassador made a two-day visit to Cox’s Bazar recently and saw the firsthand ongoing activities of humanitarian organisations of the Turkish government, namely TIKA, AFAD, Turkish Diyanet Foundation and Turkish Red Crescent.
Also read: Turkey keen to boost trade, investment with Bangladesh
He met new Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Shah Rezwan Hayat and Deputy Commissioner Md Kamal Hossain and discussed ways to intensify their dialogue and collaboration to deal with this ongoing humanitarian crisis.
The Turkish Ambassador visited the Field Hospital run jointly by AFAD and Turkish Ministry of Health, which provides medical treatment to over 1,000 patients both from the Rohingya and host communities on a daily basis.
During his visit, the Turkish Ambassador distributed micro-agriculture sets, met Rohingya children in a playground, and visited a Multipurpose Skills Development Centre, all of which have been implemented by TIKA.
Also read: Turkey with Bangladesh in dealing with Rohingya crisis: Envoy
He also received information about the humanitarian assistance projects such as community centres and health posts of Turkish Red Crescent, soap production and sewing ateliers of Turkish Diyanet Foundation.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed the repatriation deal on November 23, 2017. On January 16, 2018, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a document on “Physical Arrangement”, which was supposed to facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland.
Also read: Turkey wants enhanced ties with Bangladesh exceeding $2 bln trade
Bangladesh thinks Rohingyas will "jeopardise regional and international security" if the 1.1 million Rohingya people are left unattended and not given the opportunity to return to their homeland.