Krishna Kumar Saha 30 April 2019
Starting in August 2017, a mass number of Rohingya refugees infiltrated to Bangladesh and started living in the camps with no hope of going back home anytime soon. Since then, it’s already been 18 months, more than one million Rohingya flee to Bangladesh to escape the ethnic violence in Myanmar. While no significant improvements in the Rohingya repatriation except for some agreements or MoUs between Bangladesh and Myanmar. In November 2018 there was an attempt to repatriate few Rohingya refugees for the first time after the ‘ethnic violence’ but due to the lack of security in the proposed camps for Rohingyas in Myanmar, the step was not successful. Till then there has been no significant improvement in the situation. Bangladesh government is also trying to move the camps for the refugees to a remote island from the current location in Cox’s Bazar, but due to the pressure from national and international stakeholders, this plan has also remained unsuccessful. Now it is uncertain that when they will possibly go back to their home. This also makes things complicated for the rural labor force of the host communities.
When the crisis commenced, the Bangladesh Government had to respond to an emergency situation. Since there is no hope for repatriation of the Rohingya in the near future it is time for the Bangladesh government and the international community to address the mid-term and long term need for the Rohingya Refugees. This is a reasonable expectation for the Rohingya Community from a humanitarian perspective as also recommended in a recently published briefing from a Brussels based think tank ‘International Crisis Group’. However, what will happen if Rohingya children become educated and they learn the local language?
From the author’s personal observation, the local manual labor market has already collapsed. The poor Bangladeshis who were living in that region are migrating due to the competition of cheap labor. In addition, if they (Rohingya) are given the opportunity to learn the local language and opportunity for the education they will compete with the Bangladeshi local young people who are already struggling to get a job in the country since the unemployment rate is very high in Bangladesh. Currently, the Bangladesh government doesn’t allow Rohingya people out of the camp area. But if they speak the language then it will be difficult for the government to stop them from mixing with native Bangladeshis.
Furthermore, local natural and forest resources are in grave danger since the one million Rohingya refugees are depended on the natural resources of the locality. A recent article published in the national newspaper claimed that already two thousand hectors of Cox’s Bazar forests are already razed. Because the majority of the Rohingya are using fire woods as their main fuel. Likewise, the clearing the forests are not only doing the irreparable damage to the local eco-system but also it enhances the possibility of soil erosion and promote landslide.
On the other note, the Bangladesh government currently prohibits formal education to the Rohingya refugees. Using this prospect, the networks of madrassa has emerged in the refugee camps. Which brings a risk of promoting violence or intolerance among the Rohingya children or indoctrination or recruitment by the local or transnational jihadists.
Likewise, violent armed groups are operating in the camps. Without basic security, non-violent political actors these groups are trying to control of the camps because most of the members of the formal institutions leave the camps before the sunset. So, after the sunset, the camps are insecure and refugees have expressed serious concerns about their personal security, and militants and gangs are intimidating, kidnapping and killing with impunity. It is time to address the issue and make sure there is a stifle peaceful political organization among the refugees.
By providing the Rohingya community with security, education, and political institution can bring bigger insecurity among the local host communities’, especially young people. And this is a big concern for the local host community. That is not a good sign. That brings the possibility of intolerance for the refugees. And intolerance can create a situation of instability in the area. And in an unstable situation, opportunists such as militants can use the opportunity in their favor and make the situation worse. Since the region where the refugee’s camps are located are geo-politically significant. So, no governments want to make that area unstable. Now it is time to address the issue of Rohingya Repatriation in the world forums strongly and help them to go back to a safer homeland. In addition, without securing the rights of the members of the host community, it would be ironic to provide a better future for the refugees.