Bangladesh prepares strategy paper for Rohingyas

Chittagong, Bangladesh: The ministry of foreign affairs, under the direction of the government, already prepared a draft strategy paper on the Rohingya issue, putting forward a total of 25 proposals and sent the strategy paper to the relevant ministries for their opinion, foreign secretary (in-charge) Shahidul Haque told the reporters on May 24.
“We are preparing the strategic paper at our own efforts on how to handle the Rohingya refugees and illegal intruders coming from Myanmar.”

The foreign secretary more added, “We are waiting for feedback from the ministers concerned on the draft. After getting their views we will finalize it for our next course of actions.”

A draft of the paper now awaits review by the inter-ministerial coordination body, prior to its approval by the cabinet soon. Replying to a question; Mr. Haque said the refugee issue will be discussed during the second, two-day Bangladesh-United States partnership dialogue, beginning from May 26.

“But we will not have any discussion on the strategy paper in the meeting,” he said.

The cabinet division suggested the foreign ministry should finalize its proposal for a special law to punish those who are providing shelter and support to Rohingya Muslims illegally entering and living in Bangladesh and made some amendments to the proposals of the draft strategy paper and included new one, according to foreign ministry official.

According to Bangladesh report and proposals;- NGOs that are working on Rohingya issues should not be allowed to work in that area without prior permission from the government officials entitled to work there; the government may form different taskforces for districts and upazilas under the leadership of deputy commissioners (DCs) or upazila nirbahi officers (UNOs), one of the amended proposals said.

The taskforces will visit the area once or twice per month to reinforce the provision strictly and resist the illegal entry of Rohingya, says the strategy paper.

“Those who provide shelter and support to Rohingya people must be brought under the law, stressing the need to empower officials working at the Rohingya camps with magistracy power by incorporating it into the mobile court act.”

According to Bangladesh report, some 500,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh following ethnic and religious conflicts during 1978-79 and also later 1991-92. Of them, most of the refugees were repatriated but some 30,000 are still staying in two refugee camps—Nayapara and Kutuppalong.

Some 300,000 more Rohingyas entered Bangladesh during the last seven years on grounds of being subjected to torture in Burma. Besides, many Rohingyas tried to enter Bangladesh amid violence from the Arakan State, during the period between June and October 2012.

Every year, Bangladesh government spends more than Tk 300 million to provide food and other facilities to the refugees living in the two camps, according to officials.

For the cause of Rohingya refugees, this has cast many negative impacts on the country’s image, they observed. As a result, the government has decided not to allow any more refugees from Burma and stop their entrance, in the greater national interest of Bangladesh, the draft mentioned.

The draft paper also recommended for installation of barbed wire fence on the Bangladesh side of the border and construction of a 50- kilometer embankment on the bank of the Naf River so that law enforcers can patrol the areas through motorized vehicles.

The draft paper also recommended for engaging Bangladesh Red Crescent Society and local non-government organizations (NGOs) in place of foreign NGOs in the refugee camps.

The paper suggested that a survey should be carried out to prepare proper estimates about the number of refugees of, and illegal entrants from Burma, now staying in Bangladesh. After the survey, they would keep in several shelter centers for the purpose of repatriation.

It also stressed the need for continuous diplomatic negotiation for repatriation of the refugees to Burma origin and those who illegally entered from Burma into Bangladesh.

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