The chief editor of Germany is Deutsche Welle or DW has asked Bangladesh to accept the fact that Rohingyas will stay here for long and integrate them into the society so that they get education and jobs. Ines Pohl, who had just visited refugee camps in Coxs Bazar, shared her impressions with Daily Surma is Editor-in-Chief Toufique Imrose Khalidi in Dhaka during a discussion on “Migration -- Challenges and Approaches in the East and the West” on Saturday. DW, Germany is international broadcaster with services in 30 languages, organised the discussion.
“What Ive experienced is that they are treated here as if they will only stay here for a certain amount of time, for a very small of time,” said Pohl, describing this approach as a state of denial.
“I think its inhumane -- the state of denial. We talked to some women and some men and they told us that they want to go back to Myanmar. We talked to some locals and they want them to go back home. Thats the only thing they want.”
“Everybody knows its impossible. We all have to find ways to get out of the state of denial and face the fact that we have to give them a chance to get integrated and start with education and start with having a chance to find a job and start a life here in Bangladesh.”
The fact that Bangladesh is not calling Rohingyas refugees is also a way of denying their rights, she said.
In response, Khalidi said its “easier said than done”. Bangladesh which is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention termed them “forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals” because the Myanmar military and their political leaders call them “Bengalees”.
On Aug 25 last year, the Myanmar army launched a crackdown on the Rohingyas, forcing over 700,000 of the ethnic minority to cross the border and take shelter in overcrowded refugee camps in Coxs Bazar. With this, the number of Rohingyas living in Bangladesh, some of whom have been here for decades, has crossed a million.
Khalidi said he thinks that the government and the international community understand that the crisis is not going to get resolved anytime soon.
“Everyone formally and informally recognises the fact that they are going to stay,” he said, citing a three-year funding plan for the Rohingyas by the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.
Khalidi also referred to a deal signed by Bangladesh and Myanmar to complete the repatriation within two years.
“Even my younger colleagues understand that. Just 12 weeks after the influx began, they came back and told me they dont want to go back,” he said, referring to the journalists of hello.bdnews24.com, who are under 18.
“Life is harder there. They have seen their parents raped brutally, gang-raped. They have seen their parents killed. They think that, whatever the conditions may be, these camps are still better than the conditions back home in Rakhine.”
Debarati Guha, head of DW Asia Programme, who moderated the event, then sought comments on the main challenges in the coming months.
Security for women and young girls is one, said Pohl. “Child marriage is another huge challenge. Human rights are a big challenge. And one of the larger considerations is radicalisation.”
“We really have to find ways to offer some opportunities, mainly to the young men. We have to deliver some perspective which is more than just sitting here without any purpose and without anything to do. They are strong, healthy, powerful who want to do something. They want meaning in their lives. This is their lives. It is the biggest challenge we are all facing.”
Khalidi said it is important to ensure that they are able to have a proper childhood.
“Its very difficult. Its again easier said than done. At the least we have to ensure that these children have some sort of psychological and educational upbringing and healthcare so that they have a future. They have something to look forward to. The fact is, the way the Myanmar government is behaving is going to be a long-term issue for them.”
To ensure security, Khalidi said, it is difficult to deploy an adequate police force for the policing of such a huge population.
For this, Pohl proposed community policing by training people from the Rohingya community, an idea Khalidi endorsed.
For that also, Pohl said: “You need to accept the fact that they will stay.”