August 18, 2022
DHAKA – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet yesterday that the Rohingya refugees must return to Myanmar.
“The Rohingyas are the nationals of Myanmar and they have to be taken back,” she told Bachelet, who had called on her at the Gono Bhaban.
PM’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed the media afterwards, reports UNB.
At the PM’s residence, Bachelet asked Hasina to increase opportunities for education and work for the Rohingyas in Bangladesh.
Hasina told her that such initiatives would not be possible to implement in Cox’s Bazar but could be taken in Bhasan Char.
The PM’s meeting at the Gono Bhaban was also attended by Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam, Principal Secretary Ahmad Kaikaus and UN Resident Coordinator in Dhaka Gwyan Lewis.
Bachelet at another event at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies yesterday discussed the impacts of the refugees on the environment with students and young professionals.
“There has been no progress regarding negotiations with Myanmar. If we send them back to unsafe conditions, they are going to come back again,” she said, adding, “We cannot make them go through the same experience that they had before.”
She also spoke on Chattogram hill tracts and said rapid deforestation for tourism could lead to ecosystem imbalance and impede the rights of the indigenous people.
She emphasized “rights-based environmental action” and commended the decision of the Supreme Court to grant the rights of personhood to the Turag.
She said Bangladesh is on the frontline of climate change, both in terms of impact and as an agent advocating for action. “While some countries are clearly more responsible than others, we all have responsibilities,” she said.
Shahriar Alam spoke about the environmental havoc being experienced by the country and said, “We have struggled to negotiate with the big boys regarding loss and damage.”
The session at the BIISS was addressed by the organisation’s director-general Major General Mohammad Maksudur Rahman, senior research fellow Sufia Khanam and research fellow Shanjida Shahab Uddin.
Bachelet also addressed refugee rights in her concluding statement made yesterday.
“The international community must sustain its support to Bangladesh in its response, and press Myanmar to create conditions for return, address the root causes, and pursue accountability,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the current situation across the border means that the conditions are not right for returns. Repatriation must always be conducted in a voluntary and dignified manner, only when safe and sustainable conditions exist in Myanmar.”
“The refugees I spoke to in Cox’s Bazar, and indeed refugees and internally displaced people I’ve met in various parts of the world, stressed that they do not want to be dependent on aid. They want to be productive, to earn a living, to contribute to society and improve their conditions of life. I encourage the government to give space to community-led initiatives in the camps in Bhasan Char and Cox’s Bazar, so that those with such aspirations are able to support and contribute to serving the needs of fellow refugees,” she added.
“I am very worried about increasing anti-Rohingya rhetoric in Bangladesh, stereotyping and scapegoating Rohingyas as the source of crime and other problems,” said Bachelet.
“I call on the government and all Bangladeshis to be vigilant against such harmful rhetoric, to actively counter misinformation with facts, and to foster understanding with the host communities.”