Myanmar Navy personnel escort Rohingya Muslims back to their camp in Sittwe, Rakhine (AFP file photo)
DHAKA: Closing the year with the fourth tranche of relief assistance to the Bangladesh government to deal with the Rohingya refugee crisis, India will send winter relief materials to Cox’s Bazar on December 24.
For the first time though, the Indian assistance will be distributed to not only the refugees but also among the local population whose lives have been severely impacted by the refugee influx. The assistance which will be given by the Indian high commission includes 2,25,000 blankets, 2,00,000 woolen sweaters and 500 solar street lights.
But while there is an official appreciation of India’s gestures, Bangladesh wants India to do more of the heavy lifting on the Rohingya crisis, particularly interceding with Myanmar.
Sheikh Hasina, in interaction with visiting journalists said, “Both India and China are supporting Myanmar. If India helped a little more, we would have been able to address this. I have asked Myanmar to create the right conditions for the refugees to return.”
She said she had sent her foreign minister to look for an agreement with all of Myanmar’s immediate neighbours — Thailand, Laos, China, India and Bangladesh — to put pressure on Myanmar to take back its citizens.
“We don’t want to quarrel with Myanmar. But we signed an agreement. They have committed to taking them back. We are discussing with the international relief organisations to see if they can facilitate their return because the refugees here don’t want to go back.”
India, on the other hand, believes it has done the best it can in the circumstances. India recently built 250 homes for the refugees in Myanmar’s Rakhine province for when they return. Officials aver that India has kept up the pressure on Myanmar’s government. In fact, India even successfully repatriated seven Rohingya who had crossed over into India and were arrested.
While the Rohingya have, by and large, been ID-ed with biometrics etc, there is trouble brewing in the camps. According to sources in Dhaka, many of the refugees who have extremist leanings or are declared members of ARSA, are refusing to give their biometric details. There are unconfirmed reports of “training” by ARSA to some of the refugees.
Separately, the presence of such large numbers of refugees means the local population are under increasing pressure, and growing resentful, especially as the Rohingya refugees are willing to do the same local jobs at lower wages. Local resentment is increasing as the refugees avail international assistance — including solar mobile charging points — which is denied to the locals.
Bangladesh government sources are reluctant to look too far into the future, but the presence of such large numbers of refugees could have serious political and security implications in the longer term.
On humanitarian grounds India should provide relief assistance to Bangladesh to help Rohingyas in crisis .
Politically, the pressure on any future government will be immense — in Germany, Angela Merkel is paying a very heavy political price for her open door policy for migrants. The Bangladesh government could be looking at a similar fallout.
In addition, extremist forces are never far away and recruiting Rohingya would not be difficult, an eventuality that India and Bangladesh would have to confront sooner rather than later.