Delayed Repatriation Risks Breeding Rohingya Terrorists: Bangladesh Official

By Muktadir Rashid   24 April 2019

DHAKA—Bangladesh’s top-ranking counterterrorism police official on Tuesday expressed concern that Rohingya children would be at risk of being lured into extremism as they become youths if their repatriation to Myanmar is delayed for too long.

Monirul Islam, the chief of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Counterterrorism and Transnational Crime Unit, said the presence of the Rohingya presented “a big a problem” for Bangladesh, adding that the government was trying to find a way to send them back to Myanmar “peacefully”.

“As you know, the senior [UNHCR] officials are coming to Bangladesh. We are optimistic that they [Rohingya] will be repatriated in the shortest possible time,” he said at a press conference in the capital.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, International Organization for Migration Director General António Vitorino and UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock were due to arrive in Bangladesh on Wednesday for a three-day visit.

“The aim of the visit is to highlight the need to continue strong international support for the humanitarian response while solutions for the Rohingya are pursued, including the creation of conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State that would allow for the voluntary, safe and dignified return of refugees to their homes,” the UNHCR, IOM and United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a joint statement.

The CTTC chief said international terrorist organizations were targeting vulnerable Rohingya, adding that until they were repatriated, police along with the other security and intelligence agencies would cautiously monitor the situation.

“In future, those [Rohingya] who are now children are likely to get involved with extremism…if enough monitoring is not done,” Monirul said.

So far, Rohingya refugees have not been involved in extremist activities, he said.

The UN visit comes a week before a meeting of the Bangladesh-Myanmar Joint Working Group on Rohingya issues in Naypyitaw, which according to Bangladesh diplomats is slated to take place on May 3.

There has been no progress in repatriating the Rohingya, after the first attempt to send them back to Myanmar failed in mid-November last year.

The UN delegation plans to call on Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen to explore ways in which the international community can provide further support for Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue.

The delegation will then travel to Cox’s Bazar to meet with the displaced Rohingya, assess preparations for the monsoon season and visit projects to distribute food and provide shelter, among others.

They will also talk to Rohingya who are working as volunteers, and observe a UNHCR-Bangladesh government registration exercise to provide identity cards to all displaced people, ensuring their access to aid services and protection as well as establishing their right to return to Myanmar.

Dhaka-based daily New Age on Tuesday quoted a senior Bangladesh diplomat as saying UN officials recently had to scale back a survey they had planned to conduct in 120 villages in Rakhine to assess immediate humanitarian needs.

The Myanmar authorities allowed the UN to complete the survey in about 50 of the 120 villages, which were spared the Myanmar military’s clearance operations in late 2017.

More than 730,000 Rohingya have entered Bangladesh since the security operations began on Aug. 25 of that year.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an instrument on Nov. 23, 2017 to facilitate the repatriation of the Rohingya people in “safety, security and dignity”. It covers those who crossed over to Bangladesh from Rakhine State after the events of Oct. 9, 2016, and Aug. 25, 2017.