A Crisis Without Any Readymade Solution
Taslim Ahammad :
This has been named one of the fastest-growing refugee crises in the world and yet not everyone is aware of what, exactly, is happening and what to do for Rohingya-refugee-crisis. And the world communities watching silently a massive humanitarian crisis unfold in Myanmar's Rakhine, at the north-eastern edge of the Bay of Bengal.
The Rohingyas have faced decades of discrimination and repression under successive Myanmar government. Forcefully denied citizenship under the 1982 citizenship law, they are one of the largest stateless populations in the world. Restrictions on movement and lack of access to basic healthcare have led to dire humanitarian conditions for those displaced by earlier waves of violence in 2012 and 2016.
More than 1.3 million refugees were targets of violent attacks in Rakhine State in Myanmar. Hundreds of thousands of terrified Rohingya people fled to Bangladesh and set up camps in the city of Cox's Bazar crossing the border into neighbouring Bangladesh. About sixty per cent of them are children and they all spoke of witnessing unspeakable violence.
Rohingya refugees began flooding onto the beaches and paddy fields of southern Bangladesh in August 2017; it was the children who caught many people's attention -- almost 60 per cent of the refugees. Many have arrived injured and deeply traumatized by their experiences, with just the clothes on their backs.
Older children and adolescents who are deprived of opportunities to learn or make a living are at real risk of becoming a lost generation, ready prey to traffickers and those who would exploit them for political or other ends. Girls and women are at particular risk of sexual and other gender-based violence in this situation, including being forced into early marriage and being left out of school as parents keep them at home.
For daily need Rohingyas returning to their tents with firewood on their heads is a common sight in Ukhiya. Having no other option, they are now razing trees and forests, even four to five kilometres off their tents, to collect the fuel. Hence, a huge area of the Ukhiya reserve forest had already been razed to the ground.
Around 4,000 acres of forestland in and around Kutupalong and Balukhali of Ukhiya has been destroyed to build makeshift home and collect firewood until this March, said Mohammad Ali Kabir, Divisional Forest Officer of Cox's Bazar.
The report of a recent survey titled "Environmental Impact of Rohingya Influx", conducted by the UNDP Bangladesh said 26,000 hectares of forestland within the 10-kilometres radius of the Rohingya camps would be destroyed in a year if the Rohingyas were not provided with alternative fuel for cooking.
With the support of the government and humanitarian partners, refugees have gained access to some basic services for the huge Rohingya-refugees. They remain highly dependent on short-term aid, and are living in precarious conditions, particularly in congested camps, where living conditions are difficult and sometimes dangerous especially during Bangladesh's long monsoon, cyclone seasons and from other exploitation maybe.
However, it has been noticed and paid attention to Rohingya matters : (i) Some 11 lakh Rohingyas are living at 33 camps (ii) In Bangladesh camps, 200,000 Rohingya rally to mark Myanmar Genocide Day (iii) Though the administration didnot give them permission, some 50,000 Rohingya people gathered at the Madhuchhara Extension-4 Camp under Ukhiya upazila. (iv) Recently Nur Mohammed, a Rohingya leader, has celebrated his daughter's ear piercing ceremony and guests brought a lot of gifts; all of the gifts combined equalled 1 kg of gold, gift money worth Tk45 lakh. (v) Rohingya refugees were seen carrying a lot of sharp weapons during a recent rally in a refugee camp area. (vi) Rohingya criminals are the threat to both locals and refugees (vii) Rohingyas' five-point demand including ensuring of citizenship, security and giving back of the ancestral lands (viii) Some Rohingya refugees shot dead by their inner conflict (ix) Drug trafficking and sexual violence are high among the Rohingya refugees residing in Bangladesh. (x) Criminal groups of Rohingyas developed unauthorised shop, drug trading spot, prostitution while also got involved with human trafficking, abduction and robbery. (xi) Rohingya criminals shot a Juba League leader calling him out of his residence at Teknaf upazila. (xii) One Rohingya leader went to USA and came back his camp in Bangladesh. (xiii) Worry about HIV everyday as Rohingya women prostituted for money in Bangladesh's overcrowded refugee camps (xix) risk of refugee terrorism in Myanmar, Bangladesh and Indian border (xx) jeopardy of money laundering (xxi) warning for global warming as they destroying of miles after miles forest.
Above are the challenges that must be addressed, and very rapidly. Most importantly, this is a crisis without a quick fix that could take times to resolve unless there is a concerted effort to address its root causes and solutions.
(Taslim Ahammad, Assistant Professor, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University, Gopalganj, Bangladesh & T.A Research & Training Center)