A two-member UN delegation Monday visited the Rohingya refugee camp at Noakhali's Bhashan Char island where they are being relocated phase by phase on voluntary basis, from the densely populated unhygienic refugee camps at Ukhia and Teknaf upazilas in Cox's Bazar.
The UNHCR delegation, comprised of its assistant high commissioner for protection and the assistant high commissioner for operations, was accompanied by senior officials of the foreign ministry, says a press release.
The UNHCR team visited the Bhasan Char camp as part of their protection-mandate for Rohingyas, a persecuted minority Muslim community of Myanmar, who took shelter to Bangladesh in the face of a bloody military crackdown in August 2017. Over seven lakh Rohingyas, including women and children, were driven out of their homeland in a time span of only a week, as a result of the cruel, inhuman and ruthless crackdown orchestrated by Myanmar military in cold blood.
The UN team was accompanied by senior officials of the foreign ministry during the visit to Bhashan Char, with an aim to interact with the Rohingyas in a free and frank manner.
During their visit, a large number of Rohingyas gathered together and staged demonstration in front of the UNHCR delegation, demanding immediate repatriation to their motherland and fulfillment of the basic human rights during their stay in the refugee camps.
At one point, the crowd got agitated and engaged in a clash with law enforcing personnel, leaving several Rohingyas injured. Once the delegation left the island, the law enforcers brought the situation under control.
Later, the Rohingya refugees had free and frank interactions with the members of the UNHRC delegation.
The Rohingyas vented out their anger, frustration and concerns over the delay and uncertainty of repatriation to the top UN executives. Arguing that there is almost no progress in the initiative to repatriate them in Myanmar, the desperate Rohingyas, to get out of the present inhuman and unbearable situation, even proposed to relocate them in a third country.
The Rohingyas demanded UN's presence in Bhashan Char to ensure various facilities such as education, means of livelihood, skill development etc.
They also confirmed to the AHCs that their relocation to Bhashan char was carried out completely on voluntary basis.
It may be mentioned that recently several top dignitaries from different international organisations including OIC assistant secretary general, an 18-member UN team, and most recently, a group of ambassadors have visited the Cox's Bazar camps. During all these visits, the Rohingyas spontaneously interacted with the visiting guests.
Meanwhile, on several occasions, the Government of Bangladesh expressed its disappointment over the continuous campaigning carried out by a section of international media, and global NGOs working in Cox's Bazar.
Government officials said the NGOs have launched a coordinated campaign since the last several months against the relocation of Rohingyas to Bhashan Char, resorting to distorted information to misinterpret the facts.
Top government sources apprehended that such campaign will undermine the magnanimous humanitarian gestures and the sincere efforts of Bangladesh. Excessive focus on temporary arrangement and undue criticism will only shift the focus from the permanent solution, which lies in repatriation and reintegration of Rohingyas in Myanmar.
It must be remembered that the Rohingyas are Myanmar nationals. Any arrangement for them in Bangladesh; be it in Cox's Bazar or in Bhashan Char; is purely on a temporary basis, until they return to their homeland.
Senior foreign ministry official said the Rohingyas also want to return to their homeland and all including the UNHCR need to work constructively to that end. The UN is expected to assume their responsibility and operate within their mandate taking into account the ground reality and concerns of the host community. The Government of Bangladesh, on its part, is ready to address any realistic needs and concerns of the Rohingyas.