The Rohingya community in Myanmar has seen widespread flight to Bangladesh due to continued persecution and brutality against them. They have faced discrimination and persecution for decades and the latest chapter of the humanitarian and human rights crisis began in 2017 when the Myanmar military launched a violent crackdown on the Rohingya people in Rakhine state. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya citizens in Myanmar’s Rakhine State have fled their homes in search of safety and refuge from the violence. Bangladesh is now home to one of the greatest refugee populations in the world, with more than 1 million Rohingya refugees as of 2021, according to the UN. The crisis has presented a growing challenge for Bangladesh, which has struggled to accommodate the large numbers of refugees arriving in the country.
While the government and aid agencies have worked to provide food, shelter, and healthcare to the refugees, the resources have stretched thin. The refugees now live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, and many face challenges accessing education and employment. Bangladesh has repeatedly called for the safe and voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, but the process has been slow and uncertain. In addition, Bangladesh has faced criticism from some international observers who argue that the government has not done enough to address the needs of the refugees. In such a scenario, the challenges for Bangladesh regarding the Rohingya crisis is ever increasing.
Increasing Challenges for Bangladesh
Bangladesh, which itself is a least developed country, is facing a major difficulty as a result of the inflow of Rohingya refugees. One of the biggest challenges posed by the Rohingya crisis is the humanitarian and human rights situation of the refugees. The refugees are struggling to make ends meet and have little access to food, clean water, or medical care in the camps. Natural calamities like flooding and landslides, which might put the migrants through further suffering and force them to move, are also a possibility in the camps. There are also concerns about the safety and well-being of women and children in the camps, as they are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, and trafficking. Another challenge posed by the Rohingya crisis is the environmental impact of the camps. Deforestation, soil erosion, and other environmental issues have been brought on by the enormous number of refugees at Cox’s Bazar. Also, the camps are stressing the area’s natural resources, which might have long-term effects on the ecosystem and the local people.
The infrastructure of Bangladesh’s social and economic system has also been hampered by the crisis. Local labor markets have been disturbed by the inflow of immigrants, which has boosted competition for resources and strained relations between the local populace and the refugees. The situation has also presented Bangladesh with security issues, since there have been allegations of criminal activity and the possibility for radicalization inside the camps. This is perhaps the most significant concern. The latest capture of Jama’atul Ansar Fil Hind Al Sharqiya terrorists and the finding of their military-style training camp nearby pose a possible threat to the nation.
While Bangladesh had to navigate its relations with Myanmar and the international community, the crisis also has political, diplomatic, and economic repercussions for the nation. Bangladesh has urged the international community to take action to solve the pertinent humanitarian and human rights problems and has collaborated with them to help the refugees. Yet, there has hardly been any notable progress because the process is complicated by global politics and a number of regional and international actors all have stakes in it. At the same time economic constraints have also emerged as a prominent challenge for Bangladesh as the funding crisis is coming to the fore. When the Rohingya refugees first arrived, there was a great deal of anticipation among the international community.
However, as time has passed on, and other global crises have emerged, such as the conflict in Ukraine or the most recent humanitarian crisis brought on by a massive earthquake in Turkey and Syria, Bangladesh has and will face difficulties in managing and securing funds. The nation is also on the edge of an economic disaster, and its declining foreign currency reserves will undoubtedly increase pressure for fund in the near future. From a diplomatic perspective, Bangladesh also needs to deal with pressure from Saudi Arabia to issue or renew passports for the roughly 50,000 Rohingya who live and work there; failure to do so might have an impact on Bangladesh’s own migration to Saudi Arabia.
Recent Developments in the Crisis
The ultimate goal for Bangladesh in the Rohingya crisis is to ensure safe return of the Rohingyas to Myanmar, and there are some recent developments that both support the cause while others hinder it. Since the military cup in February 2021, the junta has faced significant opposition from the domestic population and the international community. The popular People’s Defence Force (PDF) now controls more than half of the country and such a volatile internal situation is not something favorable for repatriation. International community’s efforts to bring a solution to the crisis continues, for example the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in December 2021, on the human rights situation in Myanmar, including the Rohingya crisis. The resolution condemned the ongoing human rights violation in Myanmar and called on the Myanmar military to ensure accountability for those responsible.
In addition, International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a provisional order to protect the Rohingya population from genocide in January 2020, following Gambia’s case, in November 2021, the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorized an investigation into alleged crime against humanity committed against Rohingya population by the military. Moreover, several countries, especially western have involved in efforts to solve the problem. Countries like USA, Canada and the European Union have imposed targeted sanctions against military leaders and arms contractors, while the regional actors like India, China and the ASEAN also have been involved in diplomatic efforts to solve the issue. However, there is constant hindrance from Myanmar’s side who tries to prolong the repatriation process. A latest example would be dispossession of the Rohingya land, where the junta is militarizing and transferring the land ownership that the Rohingya population left behind, to the military to build base. Such activities would only hinder the repatriation as the people would not have their land after they return.
What does the Future Holds?
The Rohingya crisis’ future is still unpredictable and will be influenced by a number of variables, including Myanmar’s political atmosphere, the attitudes of the international community, and the conditions of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and other countries. As long as the Burmese military keeps oppressing ethnic and religious minorities and as long as people keep resisting the military, there is a good chance that the crisis will remain. Moreover, the murder of a pro-repatriation leader like Mohibullah in the camp suggests larger obstructionist plans to hinder the process. However, with the ongoing positive developments from the international community and efforts from actors like China and Russia who are heavily involved with internal matters of Myanmar, the crisis might have concluded successfully, which is far from reaching at this current stage.
The Rohingya crisis remains a significant humanitarian challenge, with ongoing human rights abuses, challenges in providing basic services to refugees, and difficulties in repatriating refugees to Myanmar. While there have been some recent developments, the situation remains complex, with no easy solutions in sight. These developments illustrate the continued challenges and complexity of the Rohingya crisis, and the need for sustained international attention and cooperation to address the issue. Overall, the Rohingya crisis remains a significant humanitarian challenge for Bangladesh, as well as a political and diplomatic challenge for the wider international community.
– Wahid Uzzaman Sifat is a Research Intern at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).
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