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South Asian Update
South Asian Update

Opinion

Can Bangladesh Bear The Increasing Burden Of Rohingyas?

 Published: 12:32, 10 June 2024

Can Bangladesh Bear The Increasing Burden Of Rohingyas?

In August 2017, the world witnessed a massive influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh, fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar. As of now, Bangladesh hosts more than 1.3 million Rohingyas, predominantly in Cox’s Bazar district, which has become the largest refugee settlement in the world. While the Bangladesh government and international aid organizations have made commendable efforts to provide for these displaced people, the situation has reached a breaking point, especially due to the political instability in Myanmar. 

Recently, another 45,000 Rohingyas fled to an area on the Naf River near the border with Bangladesh due to the escalating violence in conflict-torn Myanmar’s Rakhine State. UN rights chief Volker Turk and UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Thomas Andrews has already urged to open the border again and take these Rohingyas. But Bangladesh cannot and should not bear the burden of taking in more Rohingya refugees. This stance is not rooted in a lack of empathy but rather in the harsh realities confronting the nation and its capacity to sustain such a large population.

Firstly, the economic strain on Bangladesh is considerable. Cox’s Bazar, one of the poorest districts in Bangladesh, has seen its resources stretched to their limits. The sudden influx of refugees has dramatically increased the demand for basic services such as healthcare, education, and sanitation. According to the World Bank, the annual cost of hosting the Rohingyas is around $1.21 billion. This figure is staggering for a developing nation like Bangladesh, which has its own challenges in eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development. The resources allocated to the refugees could have been utilized to improve the living standards of Bangladeshi citizens. The prolonged economic burden is unsustainable and unfair to the local population, who have shown remarkable hospitality despite their own hardships.

The environmental impact is another pressing concern. The Rohingya camps have caused significant deforestation in the region, as trees are cut down to make space for shelters and to provide firewood for cooking. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has reported that around 8,000 acres of forest land have been razed in Cox’s Bazar since the arrival of the Rohingyas. This deforestation has led to soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, and increased vulnerability to natural disasters such as landslides and floods. Environmental degradation is a local issue and contributes to broader ecological challenges that affect the entire nation.

Social tensions have also escalated as a result of the refugee crisis. The massive presence of Rohingyas has disrupted the local economy and labor market, leading to increased competition for jobs and resources. This has bred resentment among local Bangladeshis, who feel that their needs and opportunities are being overshadowed by the international focus on the refugee crisis. Additionally, there have been reported increases in crime rates and social unrest in the areas surrounding the refugee camps. The rise in criminal activities, including drug trafficking and human trafficking, has further strained the already limited law enforcement capabilities.

The education of Rohingya children poses another complex challenge. With limited access to formal education and a lack of proper educational infrastructure, a whole generation of Rohingya children risks growing up without basic literacy and numeracy skills. This educational deficit not only affects their future prospects but also hinders the overall development of the refugee community. The international community has provided some support, but the efforts have been insufficient to meet the overwhelming demand. Meanwhile, the local Bangladeshi children in Cox’s Bazar face disruptions in their own education as resources and attention are diverted to address the needs of the refugees.

Health concerns are equally dire. The overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in the refugee camps have led to outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, diphtheria, and measles. The healthcare facilities, already inadequate to serve the local population, are now overwhelmed. The health crisis extends beyond the camps, as infectious diseases do not recognize borders and can easily spread to the surrounding communities. The strain on the healthcare system indicates that Bangladesh’s capacity to manage such a large influx of refugees is being tested to its limits.

Furthermore, the international response has been far from adequate. While numerous countries and organizations have pledged financial support and aid, the actual disbursement of funds has continuously fallen short of the commitments. For example, in the 2024 joint response plan (JRP), only 72.9% was funded halfway through this year. The fund shortage in the 2021, 2022, and 2023 JRP is 26.9%, 30.6%, and 34.8%, respectively. At the same time, the international community’s response has been more reactive than proactive, failing to address the root causes of the crisis or provide a long-term solution. Bangladesh has been left to shoulder the burden with insufficient global support, highlighting a stark disparity between promises and actions.

It is crucial to acknowledge that the Rohingya crisis is fundamentally a political issue that requires a political solution. The root of the problem lies in Myanmar, where the Rohingyas have been systematically marginalized and persecuted. The international community must exert pressure on Myanmar to ensure the safe and dignified return of the Rohingyas to their homeland. Diplomatic efforts, economic sanctions, and international legal actions should be pursued vigorously to compel Myanmar to address human rights violations and create conditions conducive to the voluntary repatriation of the Rohingyas.

While the humanitarian impulse to aid the Rohingyas is commendable, it must be balanced with the pragmatic limitations faced by Bangladesh. The country has done more than its fair share in providing refuge and support to the Rohingyas, often at great cost to its own citizens and environment. It is time for the international community to step up and share the responsibility. Bangladesh cannot continue to bear this burden alone. The focus must shift to sustainable solutions that address the root causes of the crisis and ensure a fair distribution of responsibilities among nations. Only through such concerted efforts can we hope to resolve the Rohingya crisis in a manner that is just and sustainable for all parties involved. -Source: eurasia review

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