Solution to Rohingya crisis still a far cry

TOPSHOT – A Rohingya refugee girl looks next to newly arrived refugees who fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar in Ukhiya on September 6, 2017.
More than 125,000 refugees have flooded across the border into Bangladesh. Most are Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority that the government of Buddhist-majority Myanmar largely does not recognise as citizens.
/ AFP PHOTO / K M ASAD (Photo credit should read K M ASAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Print Terming it a very serious issue, newly appointed Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said that he does not see any “easy” solution to the Rohingya crisis. “We’ll have to face difficulties,” he said, adding that the country has to face problems in social, economic, security system but it is hard to convince global and regional powers to initiate effective repatriation process of Rohingyas.
Such a statement from a career diplomat-turned-minister should be taken seriously by all quarters. We see the Rohingya repatriation process remains stuck on discussion table despite the call from many countries and the UN. In late October, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin repatriation but the plan was opposed by the Rohingyas staying in Bangladesh, the UN refugee agency and aid groups. The FM also said, “If the crisis persists, then the interests of our neighbours India, Thailand, Myanmar and China will all be affected. Instabilities may develop. Different interest groups may enter the scene……. China has shifted its initial position on the crisis and Russia is also showing positivity.”
The first batch of 2,200 refugees was scheduled to go back on November 15. But it stalled as none of the refugees on the list agreed to return to Myanmar if their demands for justice, citizenship and the ability to go back to their original villages are not met. Myanmar does not consider the Rohingya a native ethnic group and calls them “Bengalis”, claiming that they belong to Bangladesh. It has agreed to take the Rohingyas back if they have the National Verification Cards, which would allow Rohingyas to apply for citizenship. The Rohingyas reject the card, saying it brands them, foreigners. Bangladesh, however, has vowed not to force anyone to return.
We do appreciate the Foreign Minister for the pragmatic approach to the highly sensitive and critical issue as he asked his Ministry officials to make an impact analysis of the crisis from the economic, social and security dimensions. Bangladesh government needs to formulate a long-term plan involving all stakeholders and countries to start repatriation of Rohingyas. About 1.2 million refugees have already changed the landscape of Cox’s Bazar and might trigger security threat in the future.