Bangladesh calls for pressure on Myanmar on Rohingya repatriation

The Islamic Development Bank said it “has proactively been responding to the unprecedented humanitarian crisis for Rohingya refugees.”

A Rohingya Muslim refugee waits with others for food aid at Thankhali refugee camp in Bangladesh's Ukhia district on 12 January 2018. Picture: AFP

DHAKA – Bangladesh’s prime minister urged the global community, including the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), on Sunday to increase pressure on Myanmar to ensure the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled a military crackdown.

“Despite the negative impact on own resources, ecology and local population, we have opened our border to give shelter to a huge number of Rohingya Muslims on humanitarian grounds,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said while inaugurating the regional hub of the IDB in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka.

“I urge the international community to take specific steps to build up pressure on Myanmar to implement the deal,” Hasina added, without specifying which measures she had in mind.

More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees crossed from the west of mostly Buddhist Myanmar into Bangladesh from August last year when Rohingya insurgent attacks on the Myanmar security forces triggered a sweeping military response.

“The IDB cannot remain silent, when Myanmar’s Rohingya citizens are victims of ethnic cleansing,” Hasina added.

The Islamic Development Bank said it “has proactively been responding to the unprecedented humanitarian crisis for Rohingya refugees.”

“Working closely with the Governments of Bangladesh and Malaysia, Unicef and other development partners in the region, the IsDB has provided vital education support to refugee children in makeshift settlements through early learning and non-formal basic education, and contributed to the infrastructure of shelters, water points and urgent health services,” the IDB said.

The two countries reached a deal in November to begin repatriation within two months, but it has not started, with stateless Rohingya, who face restrictions on their movements in Myanmar, still crossing the border.

Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay declined to comment on Sunday, citing a new communications policy under which he said he would only answer the media’s questions during fortnightly press conferences in the capital Naypyitaw.

Myanmar has said it is ready to accept back the refugees and has built two reception centres and a transit camp to house them initially on their return.

Right groups say conditions in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state are not ready yet for the repatriation.

Myanmar’s government said on Friday it “resolutely rejects” a ruling from the International Criminal Court (ICC) that said the body has jurisdiction over alleged deportations of Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh as a possible crime against humanity.

Myanmar has denied allegations of atrocities made against its security forces by refugees, saying its military carried out justifiable actions against militants.