Crucial MoU on UN’s operational engagement in Bhasan Char signed

 Crucial MoU on UN’s operational engagement in Bhasan Char signed

First batch of Rohingyas arrives at Bhasan Char, Noakhali on 4 December 2020. | File photo

Bangladesh and the United Nations (UN) signed a formal document Saturday, ending a long wait for a much-sought UN engagement at Bhasan Char on the humanitarian front to support the Rohingyas there, reports UNB.

Secretary for the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Md Mohsin and United Nations High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) signed the memorandum of understanding (MoU) at the secretariat.

The MoU was signed in the presence of Enamur Rahman, state minister for disaster management and relief Enamur Rahman the signing ceremony.

Enamur said they have finally taken a right decision and it will be very easier for humanitarian agencies to provide services following today’s MoU signing.

The signing of the MoU demonstrates the UN’s support to the government’s massive investment there to ensure better living for the Rohingyas, officials said.

The MoU – signed by UNHCR on behalf of UN agencies working on the Rohingya response in Bangladesh – establishes a common protection and policy framework for the Rohingya humanitarian response on the island.

The MoU is a further expression of the government and people of Bangladesh’s generosity and support towards the Rohingya population until they can return safely and sustainably to Myanmar, as well as a reconfirmation of the UN’s commitment to continue supporting Bangladesh in leading the humanitarian programme for almost 900,000 Rohingya refugees in the country, said the UNHCR.

The agreement relating to Bhasan Char allows for close cooperation between the government and the UN on services and activities to the benefit of the increasing numbers of Rohingya refugees living on the island, according to the UN refugee agency.

Key Areas

These cover the key areas of protection, education, skills-training, livelihoods and health, which will help support the refugees to lead decent lives on the island and better prepare them for sustainable return to Myanmar in the future.

The UN response will build upon and complement the humanitarian assistance so far provided by Bangladeshi NGOs on the island.

Prior to signing the MoU, the UN has held discussions with the Rohingya refugee community in Cox’s Bazar, as well as those already on the island, including during the UN visit to Bhasan Char in March 2021, to better understand their needs and views.

These discussions, as well as those with government counterparts and Bangladeshi NGOs working on the island, are expected to continue on a regular basis and further inform any humanitarian and protection responses on Bhasan Char.

The UN encouraged the international community to increase its generous support to the humanitarian response in Bangladesh, recognising that the Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Response in Cox’s Bazar is currently less than half funded for this year.

This support should continue until refugees are able to return to Myanmar in a safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable manner, which remains a shared priority of the UN and government of Bangladesh, as well as the desire of the Rohingya refugees in the country, said the UN.

The numerous challenges associated with the temporary hosting of persecuted Rohingyas from Myanmar have compelled the Bangladesh government to plan the relocation of some 100,000 Rohingyas to Bhashan Char, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).

Nearly 20,000 Rohingyas moved to Bhasan Char since December last year in several groups.Advertisement

Around 1,642 Rohingyas were relocated to Bhashan Char on 4 December last year while the second batch, comprising 1,804 Rohingyas, had been transferred from Cox’s Bazar to the island on 29 December last year.

Bhasan Char, a temporary shelter for Rohingyas until repatriation, remained unhurt with no casualty to personnel and livestock during recent cyclones, officials said.

During his recent visit, former United Nations General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir highly appreciated Bangladesh’s efforts for Rohingyas in Bhashan Char, saying it will be another example to the world on how to deal with the refugee issues. “I applaud the work done there – the quality of buildings and all the precautions.”

Bozkir hoped that this would work well for the Rohingya people, giving them a better condition in Bhashan Char.

The government re-emphasised that Bhashan Char is completely safe and suitable for human habitation.

The 30-year-old island has all the amenities, including healthcare, drinking water, options for economic activities, and cyclone shelters, it said.

The island offers enough space for the free movement of the Rohingyas.

Officials at the MoFA said it should be remembered that Rohingyas are Myanmar nationals and Bhasan Char and Cox’s Bazar camps are temporary arrangements. “Bangladesh has temporarily been hosting them purely out of humanitarian gesture.”

“Rohingyas want to return to their homeland, Myanmar, and all need to work constructively to that end,” a MoFA official said.

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