Bangladesh silent on Canadian offer to take Rohingya refugees — officials

In this file photo taken on August 8, 2018 Rohingya refugees collect water at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia. (AFP)
Updated 09 November 2018
0

Bangladesh silent on Canadian offer to take Rohingya refugees — officials

  • The UN human rights investigator on Myanmar urged Bangladesh on Tuesday to drop plans to start repatriating hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees to Rakhine state this month, warning they would face a “high risk of persecution”

PHNOM PENH: Bangladesh did not accept an offer by Canada to take in Rohingya refugees, including women who were raped, Canadian officials said, as the South Asian country pushes ahead with controversial plans to repatriate the displaced to neighboring Myanmar.
Several requests for comment were made to government officials in Bangladesh. A foreign affairs ministry spokesman and the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner declined to comment.
Canada offered to take in a limited number of vulnerable refugees, including victims of sexual violence, in May when Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland visited Bangladesh, according to Canadian officials, adding that the proposal still stands.
“Freeland said Canada was willing to discuss cases with Bangladesh,” a Canadian official involved in the response to the Rohingya crisis, speaking anonymously due to the sensitivity of the issue, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“(Bangladesh Prime Minister) Sheikh Hasina said officials would look into it,” he said, adding that discussions between the two government were ongoing, facilitated by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).
The UN human rights investigator on Myanmar urged Bangladesh on Tuesday to drop plans to start repatriating hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees to Rakhine state this month, warning they would face a “high risk of persecution.”
More than 700,000 Muslim Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh from Buddhist-majority Myanmar, UN agencies say, after Rohingya insurgent attacks on Myanmar security forces in August 2017 were followed by a sweeping military response.
Experts working to protect Rohingya refugees said traumatized women who had been raped by Myanmar soldiers — some of whom have been ostracized after giving birth in the sprawling Bangladesh camps — would benefit from resettlement in Canada.
“It is the humanitarian thing to do,” said Laetitia van den Assum, a former Dutch diplomat who served on an international panel headed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to advise on the crisis in Rakhine state.
“If limited resettlement opportunities are available for this particular group, Bangladesh should think again and issue exit visas.”
The UN has documented a “frenzy of sexual violence” by Myanmar soldiers against Rohingya women and mass killings, calling for senior generals to face genocide charges. Myanmar rejected the findings as “one-sided.”
’BEST OPTION’
Bangladesh is home to the world’s largest refugee settlement, providing sanctuary to about 900,000 Rohingya, UN figures show, some of whom fled earlier waves of military violence in Myanmar in 1978, 1991 and 1992.
It has consistently pursued repatriation, rather than permanent settlement in Bangladesh or third countries, undertaking large-scale returns whose “voluntariness was seriously questioned,” UNHCR said in a 2011 report.
Prime Minister Hasina said in September that the Rohingya must return to their own country because Bangladesh does not have any policy of local integration. She also called on Myanmar to abolish laws that discriminate against the minority.
Myanmar does not consider the Rohingya a native ethnic group, with many calling the Rohingya “Bengalis,” suggesting they belong in Bangladesh.
Canada was one of the top providers of asylum to Rohingya refugees until Bangladesh stopped the program, saying it could encourage more people from Myanmar to leave their homes to seek asylum in the West.
Canada resettled more than 300 people from camps in Bangladesh between 2006 and 2010, Shannon Ker, a spokeswoman for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, said.
Bangladesh has not issued exit permits for the resettlement of Rohingya refugees to other countries since 2010, she said.
The UNHCR asked Bangladesh in February to allow it to negotiate with Canada, the United States and some European countries to resettle around 1,000 Rohingya refugees.
Guillaume Berube, a spokesman for Canada’s foreign affairs ministry, confirmed that “the offer was made” to accept a number of Rohingya refugees, but declined to comment on Bangladesh’s response as it was “confidential.”
Beatrice Fenelon, a spokeswoman for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, said Canada’s latest Rohingya plan was similar to a 2017 initiative to resettle 1,200 Iraqi Yazidis — particularly rape victims — targeted by Islamic State, or Daesh.
“As we did with the resettlement of survivors of Daesh, our intent is not to resettle large portions of these communities, but rather to focus on the small number of people for whom resettlement is the best option,” she said.
But Bangladesh “is not issuing exit permits,” she said.
Rohingya refugees are still arriving in Bangladesh and rape survivors are a priority for overseas resettlement, said UNHCR spokeswoman Caroline Gluck.
“Repatriation or permanence in the country of asylum may result in additional risk and further traumatization,” she said.
“This could also apply to children who may have been conceived as a result of sexual violence, who could face severe stigma throughout their lives.” (Reporting by Jared Ferrie @jaredferrie; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change.


India holds ‘Super Tuesday’ vote

Indian National Congress party president Rahul Gandhi (C) gestures after laying a wreath to pay tribute on the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre at the Jallianwala Bagh martyrs memorial in Amritsar on April 13, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 25 min 46 sec ago
0

India holds ‘Super Tuesday’ vote

  • Rahul Gandhi is standing in Wayanad in Kerala state, taking a risk as south India is considered a stronghold of regional parties
  • This election is seen as a referendum on his five-year rule — which has seen impressive economic growth but not the jobs that the BJP promised

NEW DELHI: Indians are voting Tuesday in the third phase of the general elections with campaigning by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party and the opposition marred by bitter accusations and acrimony.
People lined up outside voting station at several places even before the polling started at 7 a.m.
The voting for 117 parliamentary seats in 13 states and two Union Territories on Tuesday means polls are half done for 543 seats in the lower house of Parliament. The voting over seven phases ends May 19, with counting scheduled for May 23.
The election is seen as a referendum on Modi’s five-year rule. He has adopted a nationalist pitch trying to win the majority Hindu votes by projecting a tough stance against Islamic neighbor Pakistan.
The opposition is challenging him for a high unemployment rate of 6.1% and farmers’ distress aggravated by low crop prices.
Modi is scheduled to vote on Tuesday in his western home state of Gujarat, though he is contesting for a parliamentary seat from Varanasi, a city in northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
The voting also is taking place in Wayanad constituency in southern Kerala state, one of the two seats from where opposition Congress party president, Rahul Gandhi, is contesting. His home bastion, Amethi, in Uttar Pradesh state will have polling on May 6. He will give up one seat if he wins from both places.
The voting is staggered to facilitate movement of security forces to oversee an orderly election and avoid vote fraud.
India’s autonomous Election Commission intervened last week to block hate speeches by imposing a temporary ban on campaigning by some top politicians across political parties.
Uttar Pradesh state chief minister Yogi Adityanath of Modi’s BJP was barred from campaigning, in the form of public meetings, road shows or media interviews, for three days for making anti-Muslim speeches. He said a Hindu god will ensure the BJP victory in elections, while the opposition was betting on Muslim votes.
Mayawati, a leader of Bahujan Samaj Party, was punished for 48 hours for appealing to Muslims to vote only for her party. India’s top court ordered strict action against politicians for religion and caste-based remarks.
Hindus comprise 80% and Muslims 16% of India’s 1.3 billion people. The opposition accuses the BJP of trying to polarize the Hindu votes in its favor.
Meenakshi Lekhi, a BJP leader, filed a contempt of court petition against Rahul Gandhi in the Supreme Court for misrepresenting a court order while accusing Modi of corruption in a deal to buy 36 French Rafale fighter aircraft. Modi denies the charge.
Modi has used Kashmir to pivot away from his economic record, playing up the threat of rival Pakistan, especially after the suicide bombing of a paramilitary convoy on Feb. 14 that killed 40 soldiers, in a bid to appear a strong, uncompromising leader on national security. The bombing brought nuclear rivals India and Pakistan close to the brink of war.
Opposition parties have consistently said that Modi and his party leaders are digressing from the main issues such as youth employment and farmers’ suicides.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. Most Kashmiris support the rebels’ demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.