Approximately five years have passed since the violent persecution of Rohingyas by Myanmar authorities led to the consequent influx of refugees to Bangladesh. The government of Bangladesh has generously provided the Rohingyas safety and sanctuary, at a time when the anti-refugee sentiment was at its zenith in much of the European countries and the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh had turned their back on the Rohingya's plight.
The protracted inhabitation of the refugee community in Bangladesh has triggered a slew of detrimental consequences on the country, however, the country remains unswerving in supporting the community.
It seems that the international communities have grown visibly apathetic towards Rohingya's predicaments, as other pressing international crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine had transfixed world attention, consequently leading them to disregard the anguish of one of the most persecuted communities of the world.
In this context, the funding to sustain the Rohingya refugees has considerably dwindled, further amplifying the onus of sheltering and sustaining the community largely on Bangladesh. This is evidently at odds with the "burden-sharing principle"– that is supposed to underpin the response of the world community towards the crisis.
The funding for the Rohingya crisis is framed, under the framework of the Joint Response Plan (JRP), a scheme that is renewed every year, and projects the financing to sustain the Rohingya refugees. The plan is spearheaded by Bangladesh and the country mobilises approximately 136 partners, of which 74 represents Bangladeshi organisations.
The JRP for 2022 has sought more than US$881million to support around 1.4 million people, including refugees and host communities.
However, the fund mobilisation of the preceding years had been dismal, on the heels of a concatenation of international crises – Covid-19 induced economic stagnation, paralysing supply chain disruption, and the crisis in Afghanistan. The fund for humanitarian assistance that hovered around 72 and 75 percent of the aggregate spending the first three years since 2017, had diminished to 65 percent in 2020, with increasing apathy towards the Rohingya refugees, as the crisis continues to get obscured by the international community.
The lack of funding has impeded the distribution of food, basic health care and other support that the Rohingya community acutely needs. Besides, the Cox's Bazar region, that hosts the majority of the refugee community people, is distinctly vulnerable to climatic disasters, escalating the imbroglio of the refugees as well as the host communities.
Furthermore, the world is reeling from the repercussions occasioned by the pandemic, the after-effects of which still continue to reverberate in the form of paralysing inflation across the world. This is coupled with the prolonged Ukraine war, which has left the global supply chain in shambles, further worsening the predicament of developed and developing countries alike.
Bangladesh's economy is also grappling with this condition. In keeping with the world market, the economy of the county has endured skyrocketing inflation and economic woes. Besides, the general economic condition of the country doesn't bode well, as the graduation from the Low Developed Country (LDC) status will be accompanied with a litany of challenges.
In this context, sustaining Rohingya for an indefinite period isn't a plausible prospect for Bangladesh, as funding from the donors is poised to decline further in the future, thus putting more strains on Bangladesh's economy to solely fend for Rohingya.
Besides, the memories of gruesome persecution of the Rohingyas – coupled with their deplorable living condition, meager resources and chronic unemployment – has made Rohinyas distinctly prone to crimes and arguably enhances their susceptibility to radicalism. This has profound ramifications for the Cox's bazar region, which has been historically plagued by crimes, drug-trafficking and illicit trade.
Experts contend that the plunge in the funds will further exacerbate the perils of human trafficking, gang violence, drug-related crimes, domestic violence and early marriage, and will expose the Rohingya youths to the impulses of radicalism. Averting this consequence will require ensuring proper education and involving the Rohingya community in income-generating activities.
In the context of their prolonged deprivation in the camp, severed from their ancestral habitation, a spontaneous movement has recently gained traction among Rohingyas – termed as "Go-Home Movement" – which indicates Rohingya's heightened awareness and aspiration for a sustainable and dignified repatriation.
Thus, in the context of dwindling international funding and withering attention for the Rohingya refugee crisis, only two options might mold international response in resolving the crisis – either, to further enhance support for the Rohingya in order to ensure the community safe and dignified life in the camp, or to mobilise international pressure in a manner to compel the Myanmar authorities in ensuring conducive condition for the repatriation of refugee, in accordance with zeitgeist of "Go-Home Movement".
However, the first option is not sustainable, given the sheer number of Rohingyas currently inhabiting Bangladesh, which is one of the most populated countries of the world and plagued by its own sets of challenges. Besides, the "Do No Harm" principle, one of the cornerstone norms underpinning international refugee governance, will be transgressed, as prolonged fostering of the refugees at the cost of host population will evidently elicit dissatisfaction from the host community. And this might sharpen the rifts between the refugee and the host communities.
Besides, the protracted crisis will deteriorate the security situation in the region. In this context, the second option – which entails swift international action in pressurising the Myanmar government – is more prudent and will yield sustainable solutions to the crisis.
At a time when the funds for the Rohingyas are dwindling, and when the international community has grown evidently disinterested in safeguarding the community, the sustainable course of action that the international community should undertake is the safe and dignified repatriation of the Rohingyas through international mechanisms. This will eliminate one of the pressing refugee crises of the world. If the world community however fails to resolve the crisis, the grievances and dissatisfaction among the new generation of the refugee community will pester, making them uniquely exposed to crime and radical overtures, thus destabilising the whole region.
The author is an international affairs researcher, currently affiliated with the Central Foundation for International and Strategic Studies (CFISS). His research interests include South Asian Security, Regionalism and Political Economy.