The initial response of Bangladesh to the Rohingya crisis was “rather weak and disoriented”, former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission Bangladesh Mizanur Rahman has said.
Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque, who was present at the event where Mizanur spoke, however, refuted the claim and termed it ‘misinformation’.
Both of them were discussing the ‘Rohingya crisis and way forward’ at a seminar at the BIISS auditorium on Sunday. Chairman of the BIISS Board of Governance Munshi Faiz Ahmed moderated the event, reports bdnews24.com.
Bangladesh has been providing shelter to Rohingyas for long. The latest exodus in Aug 2017 has added over 700,000 of them who fled ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the Rakhine State.
Mizanur said: “We need to internationalize the Rohingya issue, (make sure it is) not limited to the problem of Bangladesh, Myanmar and the Rohingya themselves”.”The problem is a universal one.
It’s truly an international problem, an international crisis,” he said. “As an individual, it appeared to me the initial response of Bangladesh to the Rohingya refugee crisis was rather weak and disoriented.”
“It appears to me that our foreign office, our government believed that Myanmar is a peace-loving neighboring country so through bilateral talks and means with the assistance from the big brother India and another big brother, adopted brother China, this problem will be resolved within the foreseeable future.
“But to our utter dismay, one fine morning we found we don’t have neither India, nor China, nor even Russia. And that was immensely frustrating for the foreign office, government and the people of Bangladesh.”
Foreign Secretary Shahidul, however, said “The question of how foreign office dealt with it, I think at no stage we were caught by surprise. We were aware of it. We have been trying to calibrate our own responses. Some were in public, some were not. That does not mean we did not know what to do,” he said.
“Bilateral is a well-defined practiced method of dealing with any issues which Bangladesh has used. At no stage, we absolutely abandoned the multilateral platform or approach. We have been using both bilateral and multilateral simultaneously.
“We did not restrict our approach only to bilateral. At times we see more emphasis on bilateral and at some stage you see emphasis on multilateral,” he continued.
“We were quite ahead and we had used all the tools that we had in our disposal including talking to our regional finds.
I don’t think we were ever frustrated by the response we got because every country has its own national interest.”We are also aware of that context. Our expectation was possibly more guarded than often it is vent in the public,” he said.
Shahidul said repatriation has always been one of the priorities of Bangladesh.”The peaceful solution is to go back. We never suggested any alternative or anything else. Rohingyas have to go back to their own homeland.
We continue to pursue this,” he said, adding that they would try to encourage Rohingyas to go back in the “next couple of weeks”.
This is for their own sake, Haque said, adding that if they don’t go back, they will be deprived not only of land, but also of all of their rights in Myanmar.
Arrangement for repatriation
Meanwhile, preparations are underway to start repatriating Rohingyas who took refuse in Bangladesh fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Northern Rakhine state.
Two transit camps at Keruntali and Ghumdhum points along the frontiers are being repaired to this end.As part of the repatriation, a meeting of the national task force for Rohingya repatriation was held on Sunday at the Office of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner.
The repatriation will begin soon if the Rohingyas agree to return to their homeland, according to the task force officials. Bangladesh has sent a list of 22,000 Rohingyas to Myanmar so far and Myanmar has given approval of repatriating 3,300 Rohingyas from the list.
Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissio-ner Md Abul Kalam chaired the meeting while Additional Divisional Commissioner of Chattogram Nurul Alam Nizami, Cox’s Bazar Deputy Commissioner Md Kamal Hossain, Superintendent of Police ABM Masud Hossain and Additional Deputy Commissioner SM Sarwar Kamal attended it.
Abul Kalam said they have preparations for repatriation of Rohingyas though they have not yet got the final directive in this regard. The list of 3,300 Rohingyas, which was approved by Myanmar, has been handed over to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.