India FM visits Bangladesh amid Rohingya repatriation crisis | Rohingya News
India’s Foreign Minister arrived in Bangladesh ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit amid efforts to resolve the plight of 81 Rohingya refugees who are on a drifting boat in international waters.
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar will meet with his Bangladeshi counterpart on water sharing, trade and border issues, two Indian officials announced Thursday in New Delhi.
“Of course, the issue of Rohingya refugees will be raised during the Indian minister’s one-day visit, but the first order of business will remain around Modi’s next visit,” a senior foreign ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak. to the media.
Last month, the Indian Coast Guard rescued 81 Rohingya, a minority who fled mainly to Bangladesh to escape violence in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, whose boat was drifting in the Andaman Sea for more than two weeks after left Bangladesh.
Eight people on the boat had already died of dehydration.
The fate of the refugees remains uncertain because India, until now, has not authorized their entry into its territory and wants Bangladesh to take them back.
But Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told Reuters news agency last week that his government expects India, the nearest country, or Myanmar, the country of Rohingya origin, accepts the 81 survivors.
Aid agencies are calling on governments to stop passing the buck and pull the 81 survivors immediately from the Andaman Sea.
India has provided Bangladesh with two million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in recent weeks and could use this goodwill to pressure Dhaka to accept refugees.
Modi will travel to Dhaka as part of Bangladesh’s 50th independence anniversary celebrations later this month.
Other Rohingyas have moved to a remote island
Meanwhile, Bangladesh on Wednesday began moving nearly 4,000 more Rohingya refugees to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal, officials said, despite complaints from rights groups concerned about the site’s vulnerability to storms and storms. floods.
“Today, 2,254 Rohingyas arrived and tomorrow [Thursday], we expect more than 1,700, ”Navy official Rashed Sattar said from the island on Wednesday.
Dhaka has transferred more than 10,000 people to Bhasan Char Island since early December from border camps where more than a million refugees live in dilapidated huts perched on the hillsides.
Bangladesh says resettlement is voluntary, but some refugees in the first group said they were coerced.
The government dismissed security concerns about the island, citing the construction of flood defenses as well as housing for 100,000 people, hospitals and cyclone shelters.
He also says overcrowding in the refugee camps is fueling crime, while some Rohingya have said the frequent violence in the camps has prompted them to relocate.
Once on Bhasan Char, the Rohingya are not allowed to leave the island, which is several hours’ journey from the southern port of Chittagong.
Bangladesh has also been criticized for its reluctance to consult with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other aid agencies over transfers, with UNHCR saying it was not allowed to assess security. and the sustainability of life on the island.
“The process of relocating the Rohingya will continue… they are going there voluntarily for a better life,” Mohammad Shamsud Douza, a Bangladeshi government refugee official, said by phone from Cox’s Bazaar in south-eastern Bangladesh.
“Our main priority is to repatriate them to their homeland,” he said, echoing Bangladesh’s frequent appeals to the Myanmar government.
A controversial process to voluntarily repatriate some of the Rohingya refugees has stalled, with a recent military coup in Myanmar reducing any hope that refugees wishing to return home may have.
“How long are we going to stay here under tarps?” Said a 39-year-old refugee who moved with his family on Wednesday.
“The little hope we had of returning to our homeland was dashed after the coup.”
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas were forced to flee their homeland after a crackdown by the Burmese army in 2017. Myanmar denies genocide accusations and says the army is waging a legitimate campaign against the rebels.