Bangladesh Police Say NGOs Discourage Rohingya Repatriation

By Muktadir Rashid   14 September 2018

DHAKA — Bangladeshi police in Cox’s Bazar district stated in an internal report that local and international non-governmental organizations and UN agencies were discouraging Rohingya Muslim refugees from being repatriated to Myanmar.

The internal report, prepared at the end of June by district special branch officials, stated that there was no concrete evidence of this allegation.

It also mentioned that few NGOs were willing to share information regarding funding and suggested that the Bangladesh government confer with the district special branch before allowing foreign funding to be given to NGOs operating in the area.

The report was prepared under former Cox’s Bazar police superintendent AKM Iqbal Hossain, who was transferred on Sept. 9 and was unable to be reached for comment. The newly appointed ABM Masud Hossain will soon assume the post.

Cox’s Bazar deputy commissioner Kamal Hossain, however, contradicted the report and said on Sept. 10 that development partners were being monitored but that no specific allegations had been made in regards to the repatriation of the Rohingya. Some 700,000 Rohingya fled northern Rakhine State in Myanmar beginning in August 2016 after attacks on security posts prompted Myanmar Army “security clearance operations.”

An official at the Inter-Sector Coordination Group, which is coordinating the humanitarian response to the Rohingya refugee crisis, in Cox’s Bazar seeking anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue told The Irrawaddy the group had heard about the allegations in the police report.

“The police officials who prepared the report were already transferred. We explained the matter to the concerned authorities. The RRRC [refugee relief and repatriation commission] office is inquiring about the issue,” said the official.

“We are working closely with our partners,” said refugee relief and repatriation commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam, the lead officer coordinating refugee and Rohingya issues in Cox’s Bazar, when asked about the allegation that Rohingya are being discouraged from repatriation.

Help Cox’s Bazar executive director Abul Kashem explained why he thought the police would have made such an allegation.

“Basically, most of us are talking about the dignified and protected repatriation of the Rohingya to their homeland. People could misinterpret this as discouragement,” said Kashem.

Rohingya Repatriation Movement convener Hamidul Hoque Chowdhury, in Cox’s Bazar, defended the police report.

“Although we do not have specific evidence, the nature of the development activity and the delay in repatriation give us the sense that these groups are interested in extending the crisis,” he said.

“NGOs and even UN agencies want them [the Rohingya] here. It creates jobs with handsome salaries. And this has happened year after year. They don’t want the Rohginya to be repatriated,” he said.

“Not a single Rohingya was repatriated in the last year,” he added.

Mia Seppo, the United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Bangladesh, told The Irrawaddy: “The UN does not consider the conditions in NRS [Northern Rakhine State in Myanmar] conducive for return. That said, the UN will not stand in the way of anyone who wants to return voluntarily.”

Currently, 86 local and 36 international NGOs are implementing various projects along with 11 UN agencies at various Rohingya camps in Bangladesh.

Over 50 non-governmental organizations working in Rohingya camps were named recently in various dailies since Aug. 17, stating that their operations in Ukhiya and Teknaf were “banned.”

On March 6, the NGO Affairs Bureau set a framework for the local and international aid organizations to bring “transparency and accountabilities” to their activities.

In the framework, the NGOs were asked to provide all information to the Cox’s Bazar district administration and the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission regarding development activities, project implementation, funding, and employees.