Reported restrictions imposed by the NGO Affairs Bureau on operation of 41 NGOs at Rohingya camps irked development workers in Cox’s Bazar as they feared that charity work would be affected by such restrictions without proper investigation.
The list was not made public but few NGOs were named in different dailies since August 17 stating that their operations at the camps at Ukhiya and Tekhnaf were banned.
NGO Affairs Bureau director general KM Abdus Salam said that the restricted 41 NGOs would be allowed to finish their ongoing projects.
‘We will be strict with these NGOs if they apply for new projects,’ he said.
Abdus Salam declined to disclose the names of the NGOs and to give reasons for the restrictions.
Authorities in Cox’s Bazar, however, said that they were in dark and came to know from newspapers about the restrictions.
Cox’s Bazar deputy commissioner Kamal Hossain said that he heard it from media but had received no instructions about it.
‘I have heard about the list from newspapers but do not know how and why the decision was made,’ said refugee relief and repatriation commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam, the lead officer coordinating refugee and Rohingya issues in Cox’s Bazar.
According the media reports, the NGOs were currently operating food, sanitation, wash and health services in the camps where about 11 lakh Rohingyas are living in miserable conditions.
Help Cox’s Bazar executive director Abul Kashem said that he was shocked seeing the name of his charity organisation in newspaper reports.
‘I do not know why our name is there. It is a big damage for our local organisation. We are currently implementing five projects and have committed no crime so far,’ said Kashem.
Dhaka Ahsania Mission management was also surprised to see its name in newspaper reports. They believed that massive damage has already done by the reports referring to NGO Affairs Bureau.
As of Sunday, they were continuing their operations in the camps and their officials said they were in close connection with the local administration.
‘We have received no letter or instruction from authorities concerned. We want to work as a development partner of the government,’ said Ahsania Mission the spokesperson Saiful Islam.
The list was prepared by recommendations from an intelligence agency, NGO workers said.
Currently 86 local and 36 international NGOs are implementing various projects along with 11 United Nation agencies at the Rohingya camps.
In early 2018, based on recommendation from the intelligence agency, 12 NGOs including Gonoshasthaya Kendra, Dhaka Ahsania Mission and Tekhnaf-based Society for Health Extension and Development, better known as SHED, were barred from operating at the camps.
‘We are now given clearance although we were not told the reason behind the restriction,’ said SHED executive director Muhammad Umra.
An intelligence report by district special branch of police in Cox’s Bazar in June stated that many local and international NGOs and UN agencies were indirectly discouraging Rohingyas from going back to Myanmar.
‘If there is any specific allegation, please prosecute them after independent investigation. Otherwise it should not be appropriate to restrict any charity,’ said rights activist Nur Khan Liton.
IN this backdrop, 46 local and international NGOs in a joint statement on Monday called on the Bangladesh government to widen humanitarian space to further enable operations of NGOs delivering life-saving assistance to Rohingyas and their host communities.
The platform also urged the government to reduce delays in granting permissions for humanitarian projects, in registering NGOs and in granting visas for humanitarian workers, coupled with simplified and consistent government procedures relevant to the implementation of humanitarian activities will greatly improve the quality of the response.
‘We remain committed to work with the Government of Bangladesh and the rest of the humanitarian community in country. At the same time, following the will of refugees we assist, we urge the government of Myanmar to create conditions for their safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable return,’ the joint statement read.
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