UNHCR chief, 2 others due tomorrow

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury | Published: 00:06, Apr 23,2019 | Updated: 00:08, Apr 23,2019

 
 

A team of three top United Nations officials would visit Bangladesh for three days from tomorrow [Wednesday] to beef up support for the humanitarian needs of over one million Rohingya people who have taken shelter in Bangladesh.
The three UN officials are: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, International Organisation for Migration director general António Vitorino and UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs Mark Lowcock. They are scheduled to arrive in Dhaka on Wednesday with a plan to visiting Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar.
The UNHCR, IOM and UNRC offices in Dhaka, in separate but identical statements, said that the aim of their visit ‘is to highlight the need to continue strong international support for the humanitarian response while solutions for the Rohingya are pursued, including the creation of conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State that would allow for the voluntary, safe and dignified return of refugees to their homes.’
Local experts, however, believe that the international community should put their focus on creating environment in Myanmar for return of the victims to Rakhine in safety and dignity.
The visit takes place a week before a meeting of the Bangladesh-Myanmar Joint Working Group on Rohingya issues in the capital of the military-controlled South East Asian country. The JWG meeting would take place on May 3, according to Bangladesh diplomats.
‘Bangladesh always welcomes visits of foreign dignitaries and extends cooperation to them,’ Bangladesh Enterprise Institute acting president M Humayun Kabir said on Monday.
‘But we think they [UN team] should devote their attention now to motivate and, if possible, influence the Myanmar authorities on creating conditions in Rakhine so that the Rohingya people can go back to their home in safety and dignity,’ he stressed.
The Bangladesh authorities ‘should not demonstrate any indication that may give foreign authorities the impression that the Rohingya people can settle here,’ Kabir, also a retired career diplomat and secretary to the foreign ministry, added.
There has been no progress in repatriation of the Rohingyas after the first attempt to send them back to Myanmar failed in mid-November last year.
The Myanmar authorities are keeping the Rakhine state ‘under an iron curtain’ in violation of agreements signed with Bangladesh and the UN, by drastically cutting access of humanitarian actors, including the UN, to the state hampering their efforts to create an atmosphere conducive to begin the much-desired repatriation, foreign and local diplomats said.
The UN delegation would call on prime minister Sheikh Hasina and foreign minister AK Abdul Momen in efforts to explore ways the international community can provide further support to Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue.
The delegation will then travel to Cox’s Bazar to meet with the displaced Rohigyas, assess preparations underway ahead of the monsoon season and visit projects, including those involving food distribution and shelters.
They will also talk to Rohigyas who are working as volunteers, and observe a UNHCR-Government of Bangladesh registration exercise designed to provide identity cards to all the displaced people, ensuring their access to aid services and protection as well as establishing their right to return to Myanmar.
An informed senior Bangladesh diplomat said on Monday that the UN authorities had to stop recently a survey they planned for 120 villages in Rakhine on quick-impact humanitarian needs.
The Myanmar authorities allowed the UN to complete the survey in about 50 villages, out of the 120, which had been kept out of the military attacks in August 2017.
More than 7,00,000 Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, entered Bangladesh after fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape during the ‘security operations’ by the Myanmar military in Rakhine since August 25, 2017, what the UN has denounced as ethnic cleansing and genocide.
The number of undocumented Myanmar Rohingya nationals and registered refugees in Bangladesh is about 11,16,000, according to estimates by UN agencies and Bangladesh foreign ministry.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an instrument on November 23, 2017 for repatriation of the Rohingya people in safety, security and dignity, who crossed over to Bangladesh from the Rakhine state only after October 9, 2016, and August 25, 2017.

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