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Probing eyes

The new citizens

Mahmudur Rahman | July 04, 2019 00:00:00

They came in their droves, men, women and children driven out of the country they called home and where they had no rights. The Rohingya brought all that they could with them literally on their backs seeking refuge from a genocide perpetrated by the Myanmar Army. Their stay was to have been temporary but even after a government to government agreement the repatriation isn't following. In the meantime they are inexorably merging with an already over-populated country in an effort to get on with their lives.

The damage created extends socio-economic criteria. Already outstripping the local population of Ukhia and Teknaf, the refugees are on a rampage deforesting biodiversity to build their homes and set up their own little societies of schools and such. They bring with them diseases such as cholera and the danger of measles and have outused almost 900,000 shots of the inoculation stored by the World Health Organisation for Bangladesh. The country does not have the wherewithal to cater to the nearly one million refugees, none of whom wants to go back to an unfriendly homeland where they have no documents, homes or even land.

The danger is that with makeshift camps flooded by non government aid organisations, once their basic needs are met the economic burden of providing for them will fall on Bangladesh that can ill afford to afford it. Inevitably, the exodus brings with it the notorious social evil of narcotics and arms.

Bangladesh has raised the issue internationally but apart from assurances of aid-and not too much of it the world has oohed and ah-ed and done little otherwise. It boils down to geo-politics. China is eager for land for its one-road, one-belt initiative, India is eager not to torpedo its trading ambitions and the United States doesn't want another mess on its hands with its sanctions game causing enough headaches. The Home Minister has been open in admitting the lack of proper fencing. There is a risk the Rohingya will gradually merge with the general population with no infrastructure to check them. What India is missing out on is that the same splinter groups that caused terror threats will begin to thrive under the guise of the Rohingya thereby undoing Bangladesh's efforts to stamp out terrorism from its soil. As it is, the law enforcing agencies are bending backwards to handle these groups. Their success is no excuse, it ladles more responsibility on them.

The recently-announced budget makes no mention of funds required to formalise the Rohingya support issue, and in the inability of even the United Nations to find a workable solution, the economic burden will have to be met from somewhere. It will require deeds rather than words and a UN task force needs to be put in place to broker the deal between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Pushback is not a desired solution, rather demarcated land and proper identification papers are the way forward. It is also incumbent on Myanmar to take back and integrate its unwanted citizens in its society. Short of that, we shall have another chunk of people that are more than homeless; they are stateless too.

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