Amidst all the ups and downs we might have gotten oblivious of the Rohingya influx and associated crises. Since the repatriation treaty between Bangladesh and Myanmar is not working out even after the bilateral discussions, embargoes and international pressure, the looming crisis is getting more intense and cumbersome by the minutes.
Till the repatriation happens, Bangladesh is under an obligation to provide rehabilitation, management and provide for basic necessities to the refugees, that too without any policy or regulation. Despite not being a signatory to the Refugee Convention 1951, Bangladesh could not help taking the refugees following the principle of non-refoulment under Article 33(2) considering the plight of the Rohingyas. There is no law in Bangladesh regarding the regulation of refugees except some rights enumerated in the Articles 31 and 32 of the Constitution that guarantee equal protection of law and right to life. The aforesaid guarantees are the outcomes of interpretation emanating Abdul Latif Mirza v Bangladesh case. The Registration of Foreigners Act 1939, Passport Act 1920, Bangladesh Citizenship order 1972, Extradition Act 1974 and Naturalisation Act 1926 etc. are some laws which define the refugees as foreigners. A Writ Petition filed by a Supreme Court Advocate, asking for a comprehensive legislation on refugees in Bangladesh is still pending. The concern at present is more on how to feed them rather that what their status should be.
Government has decided to deport 100000 Rohingyas to Bhashan Char lying at Hatiya, Noakhali. Besides, Government has pledged to adopt all mechanisms to ascertain safety during monsoons responding to the criticisms propagated by many International Agencies and NGOs. After the settlement, there remains doubt whether Government will be able to continue to maintain them with all amenities including16-million liters of safe water, 12200-metric tons of food, cooking fuel for 180000 families for every month.
Engaging them into Employment Generating Activities (EGAs) can be a benchmark step if edified by the Government. In that case, Bangladesh may adopt similar policies like Germany; a country which has been taking care of refugees from several countries and maintaining them artistically under the German Asylum Act 2008 and Residence Act 2008. They have been provided identity with 3-year work and residence permit under apt inspection of the government for helping them avail employment facilities. And following the 'Naturalisation by Entitlement' process, they get acquainted with German laws and other fundamentals. On that point, Bangladesh being a developing country, can minister the purpose in a different way under The Naturalisation Act 1926. Rohingyas may be incorporated for an interim period under Section 3 of the Act complying with the standards (i.e. having no state, knowing Bangla, living in the country for 1 year) of certificate process; or, Government may also consider giving them temporary status under 'Proposed Citizenship Bill 2016' approved by the cabinet in February 2016.
Through EGAs, they can be instructed to generate livelihood from poultry-farming, cultivating lands, hatchery etc. Under the schemes of “National Taskforce on Implementation of National Strategy on Myanmar Refugees and Undocumented Myanmar Nationals”, they can be enabled to earn and make a way for their own living in an adequate way. Government can also utilise the 'Employment Generation Program for the Poorest project', which focuses on giving short-term employment on community sub-projects to enable households for surviving in and with vulnerability(ies). These projects can be meticulously mechanised for protecting Rohingyas. And Government may also endeavor to increase cohesion among the refugees and local communities via community dialogue schemes to unravel the free flow of the activities for socioeconomic integration.
Sakhawat Sajjat Sejan
LLM student, University of Chittagong