It took little Gambia and sixty-four other countries to seek international justice for the Rohingyas currently sheltered in Bangladesh. The country itself hasn’t done so and depended on mobilising world opinion essentially in the western world that, apart from issuing repeated assurances has not done very much. One would have thought that given their own problems with refugees, Europe in particular would have been more progressively sympathetic. As it has turned out mere words of support aren’t enough and even at the United Nations the matter wasn’t convincing enough to prevent a veto and abstentions. Then again there have been many resolutions passed that haven’t been implemented. The people of Kashmir know this too well.
There has been no indication that Bangladesh will join the cases filed with the ICC and the ICJ. On the contrary, it has eked out much needed resources to build settlements on Bhashan Char for the relocation of the Rohingyas only for international aid agencies to snub the initiative as going against internationally recognised norms for the treatment of refugees. This, despite the fact that much of Europe hasn’t followed even such a basic idea as a settlement and argues for the free movement of people. The concept is good but the fact remains unless social engineering is done properly by Myanmar the Rohingyas won’t go back to similar styled settlements such as Bhashan Char that have since been constructed.
Bangladesh is now between a rock and a hard place. Forcible repatriation isn’t an option but taking care of them indefinitely isn’t one either. The flow of aid that poured in initially to bear the cost of maintaining the refugees has slowed down and aid agencies are also running out of funds and ideas. The longer the Rohingyas stay, the greater the threat of extremism, drug peddling and an irreparable damage to the social fabric. Many of them have already mixed with the local population that itself has fast become a minority in their locale. It will take international pressure on Myanmar to solve the issue including sanctions but there’s a general reluctance to do anything of the sort.
For all of the diplomatic efforts undertaken no one seems to be taking cognisance of the pressure the issue is creating in Bangladesh. On their part the Rohingyas seem happy enough where they are adding to the problem with the inevitable increase in their population. This has been seen and taken note of by Ambassadors and international leadership but has stopped there. The exercise has cost a pretty packet including the new settlement but it would now appear the relocation may not happen, thereby sending all of the cost to waste.
It is an issue of international dimensions. Options are running out and going by some of the statements by ministers Bangladesh’s patience is wearing thin. The Prime Minister has pointed out that the Rohingya presence may well cause a major security hazard the implications of which won’t be limited within the boundaries of Bangladesh. Should that happen there’s another tragedy just waiting to be enacted.
A communications and regulatory affairs specialist, Mahmudur Rahman has worked as head of function with British American Tobacco Bangladesh, Robi and served as the CEO of Bangladesh Cricket Board.